18 July 2002 | petershelleyau
another Roeg/Russell head-scratcher
That the release of this film by director Nicolas Roeg and starring his wife Theresa Russell was delayed for 2 years says a lot about its perceived commercial prospects. The Roeg/Russell partnership's previous titles - Bad Timing, Eureka, Insignificance, and Track 29 - were a good warning, where Russell has been better served by other directors, and Roeg's interest in fractured narrative has left audiences in a quandary.
The material here is based on a novel by Brian Moore, which is an exploration of Catholic faith, but the screenplay by Allan Scott makes this seem ludicrous eg The Virgin Mary is seen by a convent, asking for the "building of a sanctuary", and the idea of a dead man coming back to life being a "demonic possession" is dismissed by a priest since "Life and death belong to God, but everything else is ours to decide". We can tell Roeg isn't really interested in providing an explanation to poor Russell, whose Los Angeles pathologist husband Mark Harmon, is supposedly killed in a boating accident during a holiday in Mexico (the book had the holiday in France), when the conclusion is weightless. Much is made of Russell as an unfaithful wife and how it is often the disbelievers that are visited by God, but when we are told of the real meaning of The Virgin Mary's message, it is laughably trite.
Roeg uses Moore's plot as a supernatural excuse to present his editing flourishes, with cross-cutting between sleeping Russell, her married lover James Russo, and Harmon in the morgue; Russell and Russo having sex cut against Russo and his wife Julie Carmen fighting; and Roeg's big one, Russell on a Carmel clifftop as The Virgin Mary makes an apocalyptic appearance whilst Russell rolls around in the dirt. The boating accident scene is pleasingly underscored with the music of Stanley Myers, though we get water on the camera, interiors are generally underlit with matching muffled dialogue and Russell's whispered thoughts on the soundtrack, Harmon wears pancake makeup and spits blood, and there is a subjective camera shot with a white veiling. However on the plus side is a scene where Russell is surrounded by butterflies, her Del A Dey-Jones hats, her willingness to appear overweight in a bikini, and the remarkably unmannered performance of Russo. An indication of Roeg's touch is when Russell tells a priest of her vision of The Virgin Mary, where Roeg undermines Russell's acting by cut-aways to the priest and long shots away from her as she paces.