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An erotic story about a woman, the assistant of an art gallery, who gets involved in an impersonal affair with a man. She barely knows about his life, only about the sex games they play, so the relationship begins to get complicated. Written by
Michel Rudoy <email@example.com>
What one realizes while watching this is how limited and ultimately unsatisfactory is a relationship based purely on sex.
I imagine that the familiar dominance/submissive psychology at the heart of this visually stunning movie--and it really is beautifully shot--comes from the novel by Elizabeth MacNeil. I say that, not having read the novel, because the seduction of Manhattan art dealer Elizabeth (Kim Basinger) by the smooth and supremely confident financier John (Mickey Rourke) is so very well done with the expensive presents, the well-timed flower deliveries, little endearments, etc., that it amounts to a woman's fantasy. The partial debasement of Elizabeth and her eventual triumph over her darker instincts and her realization that there is a difference between love and submission is also something that one might expect to find in a woman's point-of-view novel.
However when we get to the actual sexuality and how it is acted out, it is unclear who dreamed up the scenes, MacNeil or director Adrian Lyne or the scriptwriters. I say this because the scenes were so predictable and so ordinary, and when not ordinary and predictable, were bordering on the just plain dumb. Making love in the rain, at the top of a tall building (inside the clock tower), blindfolding the woman, making her crawl, feeding her strawberries, etc., bring nothing new to eroticism. And the scene requiring some imagination--baiting the gay bashers--was not realistically done. Why directors insist on allowing a man holding onto the hand of woman to outrun the men chasing them never ceases to amaze me. And then to have Elizabeth and John stop in the middle of the street to allow the bashers they have outrun to catch up was just plain stupid, not to mention the phony fight that followed.
Not only were the sexual scenes predictable but clearly Lyne was in harness (and I am glad of that) since he stops well short of what might happen if this sort of theme were fully played out.
Putting all that aside what makes this movie worth seeing is Kim Basinger. She is absolutely stunning, and it is clear that Lyne and his camera adored her. More than that Basinger does a fine job of acting in a demanding role.
I was impressed. Before seeing this film I thought she was a rather ordinary actress, but her ability to combine grown-up New York chic with little-girl vulnerability and to make absolutely clear the psychological dilemma her character's heart faced really held the movie together.
Lyne's insistence on whispered dialogue difficult to hear was consistent with the theme of the movie but not kind to these ears. But that was okay because much of the dialogue was secondary to the visual exploration of the woman's sexuality. The peek-a-boo and off center and shadowed shots of Basinger's face and her silhouette, and the studied smile from Rourke combined with the stark black and whites of their clothes and the furnishings served to highlight and emphasis the flesh tones of Basinger's skin while lending an appropriate artistic and fashionable atmosphere to the movie, which after all has an art dealer at its center. The many scenes that were began and suggested, and then cut away from, allowed a richer texture of experience for the viewer than would have been possible had the scenes been played out. And that was doubly good because again it is the visuals that make this movie worth seeing, not the originality of the story and its development.
To those viewers who thought that this was some sort of high class pornography, I can only say you missed the point entirely, and indeed, you may be projecting your own sorry mentality. For those others who were not, shall we say, sufficiently stimulated, I can point you to a graphic novel with a similar theme (written by a man) entitled The Story of O which will NOT be coming to a theater near you anytime soon.
See this for Kim Basinger whose sensitive and robust beauty dominated the screen.
(Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!" Get it at Amazon!)
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