FILMS

A high-wire passion play

Brian D. Johnson May 8 1995
FILMS

A high-wire passion play

Brian D. Johnson May 8 1995

A high-wire passion play

FILMS

WHEN NIGHT IS FALLING

Directed by Patricia Rozema

It has a lot going for it: compelling performances, seductive images, luxurious sex scenes, and a subject that has barely been grazed by the movies. Canada’s Patricia Rozema has made a rhapsodic lesbian omance. As is often the case with romance, however, there is a catch. The story line of When Night is Falling, precariously strung )etween the church and the circus, requires i high-wire suspension of disbelief.

Quebec’s Pascale Bussières stars as Camille, an English professor engaged to a theologian named Martin (Henry Czerny). Her world turns upside down when she meets Petra (Rachael Crawford), a circus performer who methodically seduces her. As Camille succumbs, she struggles with her loyalty to both Martin and the church. And, exacerbating her moral dilemma, a puritanical college administrator (David Fox) is scrutinizing her conduct.

Each turn in the narrative—the death of a dog, switched bags in a Laundromat—seems transparently contrived to unite the lovers, as in a romance novel. But while cliché frays credibility, the actors are charismatic enough that it seems almost forgivable. Bussières, whom the camera adores, gives a wonderfully translucent performance, her emotions flickering between ambivalence and startled passion. Crawford has a less enviable role, having to pull off such lines as, “I’d love to see you in the loonlight with your head thrown back and our body on fire.” But she undercuts the cript’s hyperbole with disarming poise.

As the spurned theologian, Czerny has a îankless job. And his image as the villainous leric in The Boys of St. Vincent carries an nfortunate resonance. Still, he salvages ome sympathy and performs gamely in a raphic love scene. Meanwhile, the inimitable 'on McKellar adds a priceless touch as a eleaguered circus manager whose lover 'racy Wright) wants to run away to the subrbs. The circus is a funky, low-rent Cirque u Soleil, heavy on the velvet leotards. Visually, the film is beautifully composed, /hether cutting from a trapeze act to a sex ct, or from transmission towers to a birch »rest, Rozema has a great eye. Despite the ilse notes—and a trite ending—When Night Falling possesses a dreamy charm.

BRIAN D. JOHNSON