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Poor Cow—Strands of this little-known 1967 Ken Loach drama are ingeniously woven into The Limey, rounding the vengeful Wilson into a fuller, richer, and more sympathetic character. Adapted from the Nell Dunn novel, the film follows its protagonist Joy (Carol White) in a no-frills documentary fashion through swinging London. It's a matter-of-fact character study, notable for its frankness about the frustrated sexuality of women during a period now caricatured by Austin Powers. Knocked up at 18, Joy reluctantly marries her loutish boyfriend—who's promptly arrested during a bank robbery. The flighty young mother soon falls for one of her husband's criminal colleagues, the shy, kind, sensitive Dave (Stamp). It is from this idyllic romance that Soderbergh draws the startling footage incorporated into The Limey. Far from the dour, focused, violent Wilson, the playful young Dave is remarkably attentive to Joy and her young son. "I'm very possessive," he says, explaining that if Joy wants to be a swinger, his heart can only allow him to be true to her. He speaks these words after being imprisoned himself, and the real sadness Stamp communicates in his fine, understated performance explains how a near-lifetime of subsequent incarceration will affect the adult Wilson. While blithe, resilient Joy can survive anything, it is the sincere, vulnerable Dave that we fear future hardships will harden and crush. Taken together, the two films indirectly comment on the legacy of the free-loving '60s—from a perspective before and after we discovered the social consequences of single mothers, absent fathers, and fractured families. Joy's hard-won independence shows us how that decade began. Wilson's hardened, embittered isolation reflects its end. Available only in European PAL-format videotape, Poor Cow can also be rented with a special VHS adapter at Scarecrow Video.

 
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