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Novelist Catherine Tramell is once again in trouble with the law, and Scotland Yard appoints psychiatrist Dr. Michael Glass to evaluate her. Though, like Detective Nick Curran before him, Glass is entranced by Tramell and lured into a seductive game.
The wife and mistress of a cruel school master collaborate in a carefully planned and executed attempt to murder him. The plan goes well until the body, which has been strategically dumped, disappears. The strain starts to tell on the two women as a retired police investigator who is looking into the disappearance on a whim begins to think that they know more than they are telling, and their mental state is not helped when their victim is seen, apparently alive and well by one of the pupils.Written by
Mark Thompson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
With some of Hollywood's worst trash on his resume, Director Jeremiah Chechik gives us something slightly better than his worst ("The Avengers") and much worse than his best ("Benny and Joon").
This oddly unsatisfying 1996 remake of the classic 1955 French thriller illustrates Hollywood's ham handed ability to turn a classic suspense tale into a weak atmosphere piece. I say oddly because Isabelle Adjani and Sharon Stone are together on the screen for almost the entire film and the two actresses truly bring out the best in each other. So you have a long series of well-played scenes by fine actresses, but they are strung together into a slow paced story line that lacks unity and consistent motivation. Which could be caused by a lot of things but is most likely the result of trimming in post-production, in which important unifying elements were left on the cutting room floor. Or it could be that the director and production designer just failed to translate the writer's vision onto the screen.
Since this ultimately this is a story about an evil character who develops a sentimental side, it is absolutely critical that this process is communicated to the audience. The audience should not just be surprised by the ending but should be able to think back and see all the motivational pieces click into place. In this regard the movie is a complete failure.
Then there is the issue of cheating. Because we only know what he wants to tell us, a director has a variety of legit ways to introduce misdirection and surprise into a film. But occasionally a director lacks the integrity and vision to play by the rules. Such is the case here as only the audience sees the underwater shot of a clearly drowned Guy (Chazz Palminteri). It is shown to convince us that he is dead but this then makes his reanimation impossible. Plus it is fairly useless because you know that he has to come back for there to be much of a story. That is cheating and there is more cheating in the unintentionally comical climatic scene. The beauty of the original movie was the absence of cheating and the macabre irony of the ending. All that is missing.
Whatever, it means that the only reason to watch this version of "Diabolique" is for the acting of Adjani and Stone. Although Adjani was 40-41 years old when she made this film, she has lost little of her beauty. While she was probably the world's most beautiful actress in her twenties, there is simply no debate that she was the most beautiful 40 year-old in cinema history. Stone pretty much plays her hard-as-nails self but she is given some great lines and her character is a great contrast to the ethereal take Adjani gives to her own character.
If you are looking for a better but less obvious remake of the original "Diabolique", track down 1971's "Let's Scare Jessica To Death". This almost forgotten horror classic is truly scary. It has much better production design than 1996's "Diabolique", with creepy whispering and images that stay with you and creep you out even weeks later. Jessica is a woman recently released from a mental "institution" who goes to a farm in a quiet rural area. The odd locals and their local legends begin to mess with Jessica's head as her husband and his secret girlfriend attempt to scare her to death.
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