was a time when D.H. Lawrence’s travel writings were his best received work. Even
before his sexually charged novels belatedly achieved widespread critical
acceptance, Lawrence’s nonfiction did more than their share to promote Italian
tourism. Over ninety years after its initial publication, his Sea and Sardinia continues to lure
visitors from the UK to the Mediterranean isle. In this case it is Northern
Irish documentarian Mark Cousins and his small intrepid crew, who will retrace
the old man’s footsteps in the docu-essay-travelogue 6 Desires: D.H. Lawrence and Sardinia (trailer here), which screened
during the 2015 Sundance Film Festival.
this will be a very personal and impressionist journey, considering Cousins
starts his voiceovers by asking Lawrence (presumably in spirit) if he can call
him Bert. At this point, the audience can envision the novelist looking down
from somewhere, chillily replying: “that’s Mr. Lawrence to you.” Nevertheless,
Cousins maintains the intimate, but one-sided dialogue, revisiting the sites
from the book, but informing the film’s visits with their full historical and
will never be a breakout Sundance documentary hit like Searching for Sugarman, but it is pleasant enough for a while. Despite
his libertine reputation, Cousins’ portrait emphasizes Lawrence’s conservative
nature, including his categorical rejection of socialism and his contention
feminism would largely emasculate males into what we would now call metrosexuals.
Along the way, he offers plenty of tips for prospective tourists. The hearty Lawrence
multi-course menu offered at one rustic restaurant sounds like it might be worth
the trip by itself.
though, the film loses focus when Cousins hands over the third act narrating
duties to a woman, for gender representational reasons Lawrence probably would
have abhorred. It is sort of interesting to hear her contrast Lawrence with
Grazia Deledda, Italy’s female proletarian Nobel Prize winner for literature, but
the vague yet unmistakable implication he helped contribute to the Holocaust
because he never criticized Italian fascists in-print is so excessive, it jeopardizes
the entire film’s credibility. As points of reference, Sea and Sardinia was published in 1921 and Lawrence died in 1930,
so please, get serious.
6 Desires is often doing odd little
things to undercut itself. Many times, when Cousins has a lovely vista in his
frame, he ruins it by sticking his arm out, selfie style, with a cheap laminated
photo or a plastic overlay frame. These just look bad on-screen.
When the film actually focuses on its ostensive
subject, it offers some intriguing insights that might lead to viewers to reappraise
Lawrence and his work. To jolt everyone awake, Cousins also includes clips from
Ken Russell’s adaptation of Women in Love,
so you know what that means: Oliver Reed, full frontal. Unfortunately, this is
about the time the film starts to founder. It has its moments, but 6 Desires really ought to have been
chopped down to an hour and packaged specifically for television. Regardless,
it will likely find more festival play following its screenings at this year’s
Sundance Film Festival, thanks to the filmmakers’ reputation, but it is
strictly for Lawrence and Cousins completists.
Labels: D.H. Lawrence, Documentary, Mark Cousins, Sundance '15