A bruised blonde in a blood-soaked scarlet dress lies inert at the end of an
airport runway in Madrid. Waking up in a state of amnesia, she embarks on a frantic search to find out how she got there—convinced that she has murdered someone. Seductive in its imagery, Siesta at first seems ripe with surreal promise. But as the logic of dreams steadily loses ground to the banal symmetry of a sensible plot, the promise fades. And the images add up to an empty exercise in style, reminiscent of rock video—the medium for which director Mary Lambert is best known.
Lambert unravels Siesta’s mystery with a stream of flashbacks. The amnesiac is Claire (Ellen Barkin), a daredevil who was planning a free fall from a plane into a volcanic crater in Death Valley, Calif. Impulsively, she flew to Madrid to resurrect her romance with Augustine (Gabriel Byrne), a mentor from her former circus days. Augustine has a new wife (Isabella Rossellini), but Claire pursues him with a tenacity that can only end in violence.
Although Siesta’s intrigue becomes tiresome, Barkin remains a mesmerizing presence, charged with an intensity that is at once athletic and erotic. Unfortunately, the other actors seem strangely absent. As Claire’s husband, a fast-talking Martin Sheen appears only briefly; Byrne and Rossellini are mere ciphers; and Grace Jones turns in a limp dragon-lady cameo. Jodie Foster, portraying a giddy English hedonist, injects Siesta with energy and wit—but not enough to shake the movie out of its torpor.
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