There is a remarkable synergy that occurs if one reads the book and also watches this movie. No matter how enchanting the author found the original Lilith (and of course there was one), it is hard to believe any living female could capture the essence of Lilith Arthur better than Jean Seberg. Miss Seberg was made for this role. I can not imagine a single Hollywood actress in the 45 years since this movie was made, who could come anywhere close to capturing the allure, the mystery, the marvelous femaleness of Lilith than Jean Seberg at the height of her powers. Warren Beatty is a stiff (but how do you portray sensitivity?), and Peter Fonda, Kim Hunter, Gene Hackman and Jessica Walter are all good. But Jean Seberg makes this movie. Her sheer presence is luminescent throughout the movie. How could any young man, presented with this un-ignorable force who is Jean Seberg, possibly not succumb to her magnificent, yet dangerous, allure?
The book fills in the details in a most amazing way. I had no idea that literature (and J. R. Salamanca is a literate author of the highest order) could portray human feeling in such a powerful way. In fact, when I first read this book at age 18, it was a revelation to me that anyone could experience life in such a sensitive and romantic way. I still am blown away by this book, 33 years after I read it (seeing the movie the night before, I had to find the book one January day in 1976). I remember in detail driving from La Jolla into San Diego and finding a copy of the hardback in a big, beautiful bookstore in downtown San Diego. For the next 2 days, life was suspended for me as I carefully reveled in this book with the image of Jean Seberg still in my mind as I read it.
The movie ends in a very fine, albeit incomplete, way. The book is more satisfying, yet even it left me wondering about the story. What was left out? Can this really be fiction? How could anyone imagine such events? Having since read interviews with Mr. Salamanca, I believe there is even more truth in this story than I ever could have believed. If you want to be seduced by the allure of romance in an absolutely realistic way, read the book and see this movie. Especially men. Despite the known weakness for gothic romances that some women are prey too, only men can be entranced by the opposite sex in this particular way. This movie, and the book the movie was based on, define male romantic longing in the most poignant and powerful way imaginable. And we must all get up and live our lives tomorrow. But we can never quite be the same again.