BRIEF ENCOUNTERS

Torrid and taboo

Lovers break the rules in two new movies

Brian D. Johnson February 17 1992
BRIEF ENCOUNTERS

Torrid and taboo

Lovers break the rules in two new movies

Brian D. Johnson February 17 1992

Torrid and taboo

Lovers break the rules in two new movies

BRIEF ENCOUNTERS

The story of an incestuous affair between a brother and a sister, Close My Eyes is one of the most impressive movies to emerge from Britain in years. Exquisitely written and directed by English playwright Stephen Poliakoff, it uses the incest taboo to dramatize sexual anxiety in an age of

fear and uncertainty. Close My Eyes opens a window on the wit, passion and melancholy of English decadence. It is superbly acted and lyrically photographed—luminous with the sensuality of skin and landscape. Not since Last Tango in Paris (1972) has a film explored sexual obsession with such generous eroticism and insight.

Richard (Clive Owen) and Natalie (Saskia Reeves) are estranged siblings who are drawn

together during a long, hot summer in contemporary London. Natalie works as an office drone, but her life changes when she marries an eccentric aristocrat named Sinclair (Alan Rickman), who lives in an elegant riverside mansion. Then, against their better judgment, Richard and Natalie become involved. Incest, compounded with adultery, raises the sexual tension to giddy heights, and it is resolved in scenes of torrid lovemaking.

In time, Natalie wants to end the adventure, which has served as a tonic for her marriage. But Richard has become addicted to her. Meanwhile, Sinclair’s suspicions are aroused, but he prefers to close his eyes. Flamboyantly sardonic, Rickman manages to be obnoxious and sympathetic at the same time.

The characters form a classic triangle. But for a movie of such fine-tuned emotional detail, Close My Eyes has sweeping social dimensions. Richard works for an urban-renewal agency

CLOSE MŸ EYES Directed by Stephen Poliakoff

opposing the pell-mell development of the London Docklands. His boss is dying of AIDS. And the camera captures the changing face of England with images of dramatic contrast—from the forest of massive cranes towering over the Thames, to the almost tropical lushness of Surrey’s riverbanks. Filmed over the course of 1990’s unusually hot summer, Close My Eyes is suffused with a warmth and light that are rare in British filmmaking. And by depicting Eros and civilization with such sultry elegance, it is an exceptional movie by any standard.

FINAL ANALYSIS Directed by Phil Joanou

Set in San Francisco, Final Analysis is a tale of two twisted sisters and a psychiatrist named Isaac (Richard Gere). On Isaac’s couch, Diana (Uma Thurman) offers up her mind. And in his bed, her sister, Heather (Kim Basinger), offers up her body— after dropping by his house on a dark and stormy night to give him some urgent information about Diana’s violent fantasies. But Heather has a few wild impulses of her own, and when her husband ends up dead, the psychiatrist finds himself embroiled in a mur-

der case. Final Analysis is billed as a psychological thriller. But the psychology goes only skin deep. The movie does, however, deliver a lot of plot for the money, with enough clever twists to make up for shallow performances.

Many of the twists take place on the spiral stairs of a lighthouse. And screenwriter Wesley Strick, who wrote the recent remake of Cape Fear, has freely borrowed from Hitchcock’s stair-climbing suspense classic, Vertigo (1958). But Final Analysis lacks the emotional depth of a vintage thriller. The supporting actors outshine the stars. As Heather’s gangster husband, a reptilian Eric Roberts is especially effective. Gere and Basinger, meanwhile, simply look good and do the job. As Basinger’s breasts and Gere’s buttocks gleam in the bluesatin light of the movie’s mandatory sex scene, the casting momentarily makes sense.

BRIAN D. JOHNSON