Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Comfort Of Strangers

Diverting enough, but ultimately a risible attempt to create a sinister Venice that founders in the shadow of Don’t Look Now, and here beset with fundamental problems: Harold Pinter at his most overripe, Schrader directing for portentousness (and attaining pretentiousness) and Everett and Richardson no better than usual when asked to be taken seriously. Mirren and Walken on the other hand, rarely less than captivating, usually rise above such dross and just about manage to do so here, despite the hindrance of pointless (and shaky) accents. The real source of the problem however is Ian McEwan’s story which, like most of his earlier work, is a rather silly shocker; the pregnant atmosphere of nervous expectation and warped psychology exposes rather than disguises the complete lack of substance or sense. The uneasy fear of the foreigner (the sole excuse for those accents) is attempted in only the most basic terms; and Everett and Richardson’s nice uncomplicated middle-class couple are going through a relationship crisis so passionless it’s hard to believe they care, never mind stirring oneself to do so. But of course, a lot of work is done by the fact that it’s automatically scary to be lost in Venice after dark. The denouement is derivative and perfunctory, and the coda simply pointless, typifying the superficiality of the whole. Dante Spinotti’s photography is almost edible, however, and although there are a good number of chuckles to be had at the po-faced seriousness of it all, it’s one for the venetophiles and devotees of high camp only.

d Paul Schrader p Angelo Rizzoli Jr sc Harold Pinter ph Dante Spinotti ed Bill Pankow ad Luigi Marchione m Angelo Badalamenti cast Christopher Walken, Rupert Everett, Natasha Richardson, Helen Mirren
(1990, It/UK, 107m)
posted by tom newth at

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