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The Comfort of Strangers (1990)

R  |   |  Drama, Thriller  |  April 1991 (USA)
6.5
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Ratings: 6.5/10 from 2,883 users  
Reviews: 45 user | 23 critic

An English couple holiday in Venice to sort out their relationship. There is some friction and distance between them, and we also sense they are being watched. One evening, they lose their ... See full summary »

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Title: The Comfort of Strangers (1990)

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
Robert
...
Colin
...
Mary
...
Caroline
Manfredi Aliquo ...
Concierge
David Ford ...
Waiter
...
Waiter
Rossana Canghiari ...
Hotel Maid
Fabrizio Castellani ...
Bar Manager
Mario Cotone ...
Detective
Giancarlo Previati ...
First Policeman
Antonio Serrano ...
Second Policeman
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Storyline

An English couple holiday in Venice to sort out their relationship. There is some friction and distance between them, and we also sense they are being watched. One evening, they lose their way looking for a restaurant, and a stranger invites them to accompany him. He plies them with wine and grotesque stories from his childhood. They leave disoriented, physically ill, and morally repelled. But, next day, when the stranger sees them in the piazza, they accept an invitation to his sumptuous flat. After this visit, the pair find the depth to face questions about each other, only to be drawn back into the mysterious and menacing fantasies of the stranger and his mate. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The appearance of innocence. The heat of desire... See more »

Genres:

Drama | Thriller

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for obsessive and perverse sexuality | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

| |

Language:

Release Date:

April 1991 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Cortesie per gli ospiti  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Box Office

Gross:

$1,244,381 (USA)
 »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

(Technicolor)
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Did You Know?

Quotes

Robert: Let me tell you something: My father was a very big man. And all his life he wore a black mustache. When it was no longer black, he used a small brush, such as ladies use for their eyes. Mascara.
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Connections

References Rosemary's Baby (1968) See more »

Soundtracks

ACCAREZZAME
by Teddy Reno
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User Reviews

Stranger danger in the city of canals
20 June 1999 | by (Sydney, Australia) – See all my reviews

This is an interesting but ultimately fairly nasty film made from a story by Ian McEwan who some years ago wrote "The Ploughman's Lunch". an effective and pitiless story of Thatcher's Britain. This time McEwan's story is set in an unnamed city but director Paul Schrader, famous as the writer of the 1976 New York horror film "Taxi Driver", has set the "Comfort of Strangers" in Venice, to very good effect. Grandeur, decay, and corruption haunt every frame and what might seem highly implausible in Hampstead becomes almost natural on the shores of the Adriatic.

Our protagonists Colin and Mary (Rupert Everett and Natasha Richardson) are a youngish unmarried English couple who are revisiting Venice on holiday. In reality, they are trying to decide what to do about their relationship. She is divorced, with two small children. He loves her, he says, but has doubts about marriage and living together. Late at night while in search of somewhere to eat, they meet, apparently by chance, the elegant and charming Robert (Christopher Walken). He takes them to a bar and entertains them with stories from his past. Next morning he bumps into them again as they are having coffee in Pizza San Marco. He affects remorse at having left them to find their own way home the previous night (they got lost and spent the night by a canal) and invites them back to his apartment for a nap and dinner. Robert lives in a truly grand, if museum-like, apartment on the Grand Canal with his Canadian wife Caroline (Helen Mirren). By now it has become apparent that there is something a bit odd about both Robert and his wife. When (in the absence of the ladies) Colin rather tactlessly remarks on the museum-like atmosphere of the apartment Robert delivers him a sharp blow to his solar plexus. Helen confesses to having spent half an hour watching Colin and Mary sleeping and talks about the connection between pain and sexual pleasure. However, dinner passes off pleasantly enough and they return to their hotel.

Colin and Mary continue their holiday and find their interest in each other rekindled. In fact they seem to be constantly making love, or wanting to. It looks as if they will marry after all. Then, while they are passing near Robert's apartment, Caroline spots them from her balcony and invites them in. Matters soon become decidedly unpleasant.

If this is a moral tale, I'm not sure what the moral is. Watch out for twitchy foreigners wearing linen Armani suits when on holiday abroad? If it is a study in sexual decadence there's no explanation as to why the characters are the way they are (though Robert's diplomat father, he of the mascara moustache, sounds like a real bully). Well, I didn't really get the point of "Taxi Driver" either, except that it indicated the NY taxi licensing people needed to do something about the Travis Bickles in their fleet. Are we supposed to start enjoying it when nasty things start happening to our protagonists, who, while not particularly likable, do not seem to deserve their fate either?

The Venetian atmosphere was well evoked and I enjoyed all the main performances, though Christopher Walken was just a bit too twitchy - too obviously odd - at times. Rupert Everett struck just the right note of supercilious self-absorption required for Colin (is every male in English publishing an upper-class prat?) Helen Mirren as Caroline managed to convince us that an apparently gentle person can harbour some pretty violent desires. Natasha Richardson also struck the right note as the attractive, slightly fuzzy-minded but decent Mary.


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