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A merchant marries a woman who looks exactly like his former lover, who died because of him. But the man has a morbid jealousy, he sees a rival in every man. Then he asks an attractive man to seduce his wife for money. Written by
AFFAIR PLAY, thankfully made available on DVD by Video Search of Miami, is so far superior to the hundreds of "erotic thrillers" cranked out during the '90s video & pay-cable boom that watching it is a shock -yes it IS possible to inject quality into tired, overused formulae. I highly recommend this title to film buffs seeking out unsung gems.
The screenplay is credited to, among others, Dmitri Frenkel Frank, who died 7 years before the movie was shot. He directed a film I'm still hankering to see, PRIVATE RESISTANCE, starring two personal faves Bruno Ganz and Renee Soutendijk, produced by filmmaker Roeland Herbosch of AFFAIR PLAY.
Clever script, which remains believable and even riveting no matter the number of twists and turns, revolves around Erotic Art collector Derek De Lint, who we gradually discover is not merely neurotic but nearly a sociopath.
Film begins with a delightful "meet cute" scene, as co-star Lysette Anthony jumps into Derek's limo, after breaking up noisily with her boyfriend while De Lint's car sits stalled in traffic nearby. She asks him to drop her off at the airport, but for Derek it is love at first sight, rueing the fact that he'll never see her again.
Instead, Lysette decides to stick around, since she has a high-ranking post in the U.S. embassy. They meet again and after a whirlwind romance (with the requisite and satisfying Lysette nude sex scenes for the fans) get married.
Trouble begins immediately as Derek's irrational jealousy is on display; he hallucinates Lysette making out with virtually every man she meets. The offs and ons of their relationship are taken to absurd extremes, but both of these talented thesps punch across their characters, maintaining credibility in a genre not known for its verisimilitude.
Key plot peg is when Derek imagines (incorrectly) Lysette in a clinch with pro golfer Bill Sage (on loan from the Hal Hartley stable) on the practice green, causing another fracas as he hits the innocent golfer in public. But the upshot is Derek concocting a cockamamy scheme of hiring Bill (with a $100,000 retainer and lavish new apartment to boot) to seduce his wife, in order to psychologically "isolate" the pain, as he will know who she's having an affair with rather than suspecting any and all comers.
Director Roeland Kerbosch keeps the twists lively and mirrors them beautifully with the parallel plot of Derek's art obsession, pursuing two elusive erotic Rembrandt sketches for his vast collection. Also along for the ride is Derek's aunt, skillfully played by Ann Hasekamp, who has been looking after him for nearly 30 years, ever since the tragic death of his first love (a lookalike for Lysette, natch) ruined his career and almost his life, as he was accused of killing her. His best friend, now a high-powered priest Simon West (unpronounceable Boudewijn de Groot in a well-measured performance), turns out to be the key to the murder mystery.
Lysette Anthony, always high on my sexiest-actress list and who dallied with Hollywood stardom in the '90s, is terrific in carrying the film on her pretty shoulders -she deserved a far better career. Also relatively unsung is De Lint -solid as a rock no matter how far-fetched the script takes his role. I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Derek at the 1988 Cannes Film Festival on the occasion of his movie STEALING HEAVEN's debut, featuring one of his best roles ever as Abelard (of Abelard & Heloise fame). With a perfect command of English (as is the case for most Dutch actors, unlike their counterparts from other European countries) he should have become a big, big star.
Production values are consistently superior in this shot-in-English Dutch movie. One of its best elements is that through most of the film I was naturally suspecting Lysette's motives (given the way she entered the story in the first place), yet the finely honed script never stooped to the usual switch of her turning out to have any bad intentions.
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