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Klaus Maria Brandauer,
Hans Christian Blech,
Eva, an upper-class housewife, frustratedly leaves her arrogant husband and decides to enter the call girl business. She lets Yvonne, a prostitute, teach her the basics and both set out for prey together, until Eva starts an affair with Chris, who turns out to be a call boy, as well. Consequently, she moves into his penthouse, large enough for both to offer their services separately. Written by
'Woman In Flames' begins with an unhappy wife leaving her home to pursue life as a call girl. What is perceived immediately is the abruptness of the move; there is only the monologue of Eva (played by Gudrun Landgrebe) for us to digest as testimony to her overwhelming unhappiness.
As soon as she moves out she calls and meets up with a madame; or the female equivalent of a pimp, is seems. Almost immediately Eva is thrust into and is apparently successful at being a call girl. Her clientele is upscale enough and the circles she travels in are such that almost no hint of danger is discernible; sadly, neither is there any hint of emotion on our part, either.
Landgrebe assumes an accomplished, extremely graceful and subtly erotic persona; acting, in a word, superbly. Her 'provocative smile', for which she is called on at a party by Chris, is indeed coquettish throughout. That she might be a successful call girl is entirely within the realm of possibility. Eva is one smooth operator.
Her liaison with Chris early in the film (he operates in a male parallel universe to Eva's) turns into love; and it is their outwardly enviable lifestyle that will be their undoing. Their relationship is not nearly as passionate as we would expect, and instead they seriously underplay their attraction. Several mild twists and small surprises occur, not the least of which is Eva's increasing skill at satisfying domination/submission clients.
Eventually we see that neither party is happy with the arrangement nor can they continue in this fashion. We know they will part, but we can't imagine how it might end, which is enough reason to see it through.
Incredibly cruel and violent, the ending is less satisfying than the noir-like path of the story prepares for us. The unbelievable turn of events is one of two false notes in the film the other being the opening! But overall the mechanical world of love-for-hire is presented stylistically and non-judgmentally, placing 'Woman In Flames' somewhat in the manner of David Lynch's 'Blue Velvet', but without the onslaught of craziness. We are voyeurs but cannot in the final analysis care or feel sorry for any of them.
Rating: Three Stars.
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