26 May 1999 | Philby-3
Blue move for nice people
This is an odd little movie about a handsome yuppie couple, Maria and Joseph, who have serious emotional problems. She is frigid and possesses a "borderline" personality (whatever that is), he is obsessed with "curing" her - making her more to his liking. Naturally, therapy is called for. After some initial unproductive consultations with a marriage counsellor, a more unorthodox therapist is resorted to. This rather preposterous figure, Balthazar, (he is a violinist of concert standard and ace motor mechanic as well as therapist and lives in a grand booklined apartment), has sex with his female patients and generally carries on as if he were above the rest of humanity. In real life of course he would be quickly struck off, despite the lines of satisfied patients trooping out of his rooms. Initially antagonistic, Joseph becomes an acolyte, and eagerly soaks up the mish mash of yoga, breathing control, masturbation, mind games and crackerbarrel philosophy served up by the arrogant one. The couple make some progress (discovering bondage with Joseph as the slave helps) until a nasty secret from Maria's past comes out and, unable to deal with both it and her awakened husband, she asks him to leave. But all is not lost, time heals wounds and there is a reconciliation.
The problem with this movie is its inconsistency. It starts off as a comedy but veers mid way through into personal drama intercut with some fairly didactic lectures on sexual relations. There are some nice soft porny bits (in blue!) with the handsome couple that tend to detract from their severe psychological problems rather than illustrate them. The theme "screwing is as much a mind game as anything" does emerge reasonably clearly but it also helps, it seems, to be young, rich and gorgeous. The film apparently did not do well at the box office - a comedy or a porn film with a similar storyline would doubtless have done better. Believe me, it's not easy to deliver entertaining lectures.
I am also left wondering about Joseph's alleged "Pygmalion" complex - the desire to model the woman of his dreams out of Maria. He spends most of the movie on a quest for self-improvement, his attitude towards women in general improving considerably.
Terrence Stamp, British journeyman actor from way back, turns in an attractive performance as Dr Balthazar, "practising at the edge of the law," as another analyst puts it. All glistening eyes and shiny silver hair, he holds back just enough to allow a tiny bit of parody to emerge. Craig Sheffer as Joseph has porn star good looks (muscles, no body hair), a perpetually surprised expression, and a reasonable acting range. We see more of him than Maria, (Sheryl Lee, of "Twin Peaks" fame.) Maria spends a lot of time crying, which Sheryl seems to be good at.
Location filming was in Vancouver, which provided some pretty backdrops. The streetscape was far too clean and tidy to be any large city in the U.S. Canadians might be a buttoned down lot but at least they pick up their rubbish. The film is apparently a first effort from writer/director Lance Young, formerly a production executive. One could be cruel and say "stick with your day job" but it is not an uninteresting movie. There are solid acting, nice locations and a few interesting ideas. Yet the story itself is highly improbable, and the people involved too pretty and stupid to really engender much empathy in the viewer.