14 March 2001 | the red duchess
Watch it for early Figgis.
A trio of mini-TV movies based on short stories by outmoded American writers. 'Kansas' is 'The Wizard of Oz' updated to working class New York in 1939, on the eve of World War 2, with Kyra Sedgewick as an awful wife longing for escape when the world of her dreams stales, forcing her boxer husband Matt Dillon into a potentially fatal fight.
'Dilemma' pays homage to the 1950s Hollywood melodrama, and features Ray Liotta having nightmares prompted by work pressure (he's in advertising, of course), alcoholic wife (Andie MacDowell as an escaped inmate from the Tennessee Williams Crazyhouse), fears for his kids, and the possibility that he might have to fight in Korea.
Mike Figgis' 'Mara' is what you'd expect from a Henry Miller story set in Paris: much talking of talks, little walking of walks.
The first two films are done in the style of glum Masterpiece Theatre (eg Eugene O'Neill), all contrived scenarios and stilted dialogue. Figgis, hampered by indifferent material, squeezes some of the empathetic visual magic he would perfect in 'one night stand'.