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In Toronto, the fifteen year-old student and aspirant writer Sarah Norton meets the sixty year old painter Ashley St. Clair in a cafeteria while hiding from her stalker boy-friend Paul. Ashley hasn't painted for ten years. He agrees to read the poems that Sarah has written. They start seeing each other at his studio and Sarah falls in love with him. Ashley feels a platonic love for Sarah that becomes his muse and he decides to paint again. Paul spies Sarah in Ashley's studio, and misunderstands their relationship, he attacks her in a cornfield but she defends herself. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Fairly tame treatment of a potentially controversial story theme.
When I read the back of the video sleeve and realised what Circle Of Two was actually about, I was left rather worried regarding what I was about to watch. A 60 year-old artist falling in love with a 15 year-old girl? The very thought of it made me a bit queasy, a bit nervous. But I couldn't believe for one minute that a dignified actor like Richard Burton would be caught in a film passionately romping around in bed with a teenaged girl. Nor could I believe that a promising young starlet like Tatum O'Neal would stoop to such scenes. Once I got round to watching the film nothing about it was as exploitative, tasteless or controversial as I'd initially feared. It wasn't particularly good either. Just a quiet, forgettable love story about ill-suited lovers.... absorbing enough to sit through but not provocative enough to stick in the memory for long afterwards.
Sarah Norton (Tatum O'Neal) is a bright kid from an affluent family. She occasionally skips school and does "daring" things like sneaking into porn movie screenings at the local adult-movie theatre. She meets a local artist, Ashley St. Clair (Richard Burton), who was once a renowned painter but hasn't painted a stroke in ten years after the critics were unjustly savage towards his work. Somehow, an unlikely affection develops between them which soon blossoms into full-scale love. But Sarah's parents disapprove and take vehement measures to drive a wedge between the mismatched lovers.
The nearest the film comes to over-stepping the mark is a scene in which a naked O'Neal offers herself to Burton in his art studio, upon which he angrily orders her to get dressed. Luckily, Jules Dassin makes the scene quite sensitive and tasteful, directing it as a moment of character development rather than an opportunity for titillation. Throughout the remainder of the film, the controversial issues and themes are dealt with relatively tamely. Burton is pretty good as the artist whose age and experience warn him that to fall in love with the girl - and let her love him in return - is bound to end unhappily. It was probably a hard role to play, but he is honest and convincing in each scene. O'Neal as the teenaged love interest is OK, if a bit wooden with some of her delivery. Michael Wincott (later a scene stealer as Guy of Gisbourne in Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves) has a small but significant role as O'Neal's outrageously jealous ex-boyfriend. Circle Of Two is a fair story of forbidden passion and unworkable love. It works its way through a series of sad and poignant events to an inevitably forlorn conclusion, weaving a story that is interesting without ever being irresistible. It ain't a classic, but it's not too bad.
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