You see, Liz was fundamental to my college education — the social part of it, anyway. It was in college that I learned how to communicate with people, how to carry on a real conversation, how to make friends and be a friend in return. I didn’t get any of that high school, with its cliques and peer pressure and the nonstop bible verses being thrown my way and the incessant fear of being outed as a boy-kisser.
In college, I began as an unknown. Only a couple of my high school buddies went to Millsaps — which was, and is, a college for nerds — so I reinvented myself. And when I recast myself as the person I wanted to be, I discovered who I really was. (Not surprising, really.) Once I had that part cleared up, I could be honest and open around friends — real friends who liked me for the real me.
One of my first real friends, Estus, was a freak for Liz Taylor movies. Most nights of the week, we’d crack open a case of beer and fire up the bong (it may have been nerdy, but Millsaps was still college) and watch whatever he had on hand. And more often than not, what he had on hand was a film called The Driver’s Seat.
The Driver’s Seat is a novel — a novella, really — by Muriel Spark. It’s the story of a spinster from northern Europe who goes to Italy for…well, for various reasons.
The novel isn’t that good. Spark has an unusual writing style that flattens out time, simultaneously describing events of the past, present, and future. Unfortunately, for a suspense story like The Driver’s Seat, Spark’s approach spoils the ending pretty quickly.
In movie form, however, it’s very, very different. Even though director Giuseppe Patroni Griffi tried to incorporate Spark’s time-flattening storytelling technique, The Driver’s Seat (or Identikit, as it was known most places) remained a fairly suspenseful film. And in typical early-70s style, it was quirky to the point of being nonsensical, but it was a feast for the eyes. Given my mental condition during those get-togethers, visuals were all I really cared about. I couldn’t get enough of it — or her.
Someone’s been kind enough to post the entire film to YouTube, but sadly, it’s not embeddable. Here’s a great clip from the middle of it. The scenes with Liz and Mona Washbourne — whom she befriends on her trip — take place in the past; the others take place in the present. I’ll let you guess which scene is my favorite.