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Ash Wednesday, 1973, Elizabeth Taylor

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Since Ash Wednesday is coming soon I wanted to write about a beauty related film called Ash Wednesday, released in 1973It stars Elizabeth Taylor as a wealthy American woman who is aging on the outside, and on the inside is anxious and depressed, afraid of change and the passing of time. The film opens with beautiful music and a series of photos of Elizabeth's character, starting with a photo of her as a beautiful coed, then a bride, a new mom, a slide show of passing time, ending with a photo of a depressed looking and unkempt older lady. 

To solve her problems, Elizabeth's character, Barbara, goes to a clinic in Switzerland for a face lift, eye lift, four and a half hours of surgery, plus cell therapy injections. The film showed a real face lift in graphic detail. This was considered a shocker, as having a face lift was a very secretive thing in those days, something to be embarrassed about. The procedures cause Barbara so much pain and anxiety, and at the same time she is still battling anxiety about her life. She is cheered a bit when she makes a new friend--a famous English fashion photographer who explains how one becomes addicted to having repeated surgeries, but is understanding and witty. 

The makeover is an amazing success, and Barbara is stunningly beautiful. Her doctor prescribes a strict beauty routine of a very simple diet, and constant sun protection in order to maintain her new beauty. 

Barbara then goes to a ski resort in Cortina. (All the sets and exteriors are fabulous in the film. As are the clothes, hair and makeup. It is visually lovely.) Although her beautiful new face and figure attract several handsome young male suitors (Helmut Berger!), Barbara still feels lonely and afraid. Then, she has to go through a lot of inner work that is no less painful than the surgery. Maybe it's even more painful. All while sticking to her doctor's strict regimen. I love one scene where Barbara is so depressed, she cheats and gets not one but two amazing pastries from the dessert tray! She finally has to face her fears as a Mardi Gras party turns into Ash Wednesday, and breaks down in intense grief. In the final scene, it is Ash Wednesday, and she is beautiful, and serene. She has completed her inner work. 

I honestly don't know why this film is not more renowned. I have it on VHS, but I don't think it's on DVD, BluRay, or streaming. I think Miss Taylor was beautiful and brilliant in the film. I think she gave a very sensitive performance. I think this movie is misunderstood because it is about beauty and plastic surgery, it is maybe not taken seriously by people who don't understand that preoccupation with outer beauty can be a response to inner pain. 

Edited by EdithS2

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