Category Archives: Hollywood Cinema

Ruggles of Red Gap (1935)

Director: Leo McCarey

Screenplay: Walter DeLeon and Harlan Thompson

Finally arriving on DVD in North America, through Universal Home Video’s intriguing “Vault Series” of manufacture-on-demand DVD-Rs (available exclusively through Amazon.com), Leo McCarey’s Ruggles of Red Gap is a very pleasing fish-out-of-water comedy enhanced by the director’s humanistic feeling for his characters and their social condition.

The film opens in Paris, 1908. Charles Laughton portrays the Ruggles of the title, a stodgy British servant whose world is turned upside down (or right-side up) when his master (Roland Young) loses his services in a poker game to a nouveau riche American couple. Hilarity ensues as Ruggles discovers that his new employers, a Mr. and Mrs. Floud (Charlie Ruggles and Mary Boland), helplessly lack the social graces befitting masters of the house. The husband, for example, encourages Ruggles to drink on the job, leading to a very amusing and very touching sequence in which Ruggles gets soused and goes for a blissed-out ride on a merry-go-round.

Mr. Floud further insists on calling his new manservant by the nonsensical sobriquet “Colonel.” This particular faux pas incites a major misunderstanding back in the Flouds’ hometown of Red Gap, Washington, where the locals confuse the nickname “Colonel” for a genuine military designation, and celebrate the humble butler Ruggles as a distinguished member of the British Army. His social standing thus flipped, Ruggles grows to appreciate the life of an (accidentally) independent man, and resolves to strike out and make something of himself in his newly adopted country.

In the hands of McCarey and Laughton (who gradually suffuses Ruggles’ droopy, solemn countenance with pride, dignity, and good humour), this is a very sweet story of personal triumph over class barriers. So sweet in fact that one is tempted to forgive the whiffs of Hollywood flag-waving (see: Ruggles’ recitation of the Gettysburg Address in a Red Gap saloon), and the complementary aggrandizements regarding how far individual rights and freedoms actually extended in America at the time (the Flouds’ Black maid and Chinese servant are conspicuously forgotten about in all the hoopla surrounding Ruggles’ ascent to independence). Though it’s never quite as funny as Lubitsch’s Ninotchka (1939), another assimilation-of-foreigners comedy (in which Garbo the communist learns to laugh!), Ruggles does claim the highroad over the latter film by avoiding easy condescension about how bad-off Ruggles was before his American conversion. To wit, McCarey doesn’t hard-sell America’s superiority over other nations and ways of life, but makes a gentler point about how much more fun, enlightening, and affirmative life among equals can be.

-Cam

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Perfect (1985)

Director: James Bridges

Screenplay: James Bridges and Aaron Latham (based on Latham’s articles for Rolling Stone Magazine)

Here I am again, stuck in the ’80s, like some broken Jan Hammer record. Between posts on Thief of Hearts, A Night in Heaven, and now Perfect, reviewing sexed-up, widely reviled stuff from the Reagan-era Hollywood assembly line is fast becoming my schtick here at Wipe. I might as well make this a running feature of the blog: “Searching for Sex in Reagan Hollywood’s Junk Trunk.”

Maybe it’s my fault for continuously seeking out such films; I admit I’m fascinated by ’80s Hollywood as an era of vulgar ostentation, cheeseball culture, and recrudescent conservatism. There’s also something extra-horny about Hollywood in the ’80s (perhaps it was all the coke being passed around at Don Simpson parties). The perspiring hardbody seems to be the sex object par excellence during this time; sweat and athleticism (or muscles) are fetishized (see Flashdance for arguably the key female figure of this fetishization; or really any Stallone movie for the macho-violent male alternative). What struck me about James Bridges’ Perfect as I watched it recently was not only that it took as its main focus Hollywood’s obsession with sweaty, fit bodies (the obsession to be “perfect”), but that it actually, almost in spite of itself, yielded insights into this phenomenon. I also found the film noteworthy for being less asymmetrical in its sexual politics than is usual for films of its type, i.e. ’80s Hollywood entertainments where the plot pivots around the problem of facilitating coitus – the methods used, the ethics involved, the reasons behind. And yeah, I realize I’m casting a broad net here.

Perfect sets out to blow the lid off the L.A. sports gym culture of the early ’80s. Based on articles by real-life Rolling  Stone writer Aaron Latham (who also wrote the script for Perfect), the film follows journo Adam Lawrence (John Travolta, playing the Latham part) as he braves the California gym scene to research a piece on how fitness centres are fast replacing single’s bars as the primo destination for eligible, lusty bachelors and bachelorettes on the West Coast.

At one of the gyms Travolta meets Jessie (Jamie Lee Curtis), a popular aerobics instructor whom he immediately targets as the central figure in his piece, being most drawn to her sexually. She refuses to let him interview her, explaining she’s been burned before for trusting a journalist (more on that later). But Jessie has no qualms about going to bed with him, and in fact is the first to make a pass, doing so by typing “Wanna fuck?” on Adam’s word processor – a pre-cell phone example of “sexting,” to be sure.

Even as one appreciates the brazenness of Jessie’s sexuality (in contradistinction to the repressed female leads in A Night in Heaven and Thief of Hearts), one cannot help feeling a little bemused by Jessie’s conviction that she doesn’t need to trust Adam as a journalist to want to have sex with him. Integrity is not an immediate issue for Jessie and Adam’s sexual relationship; in the beginning, it’s just “physical, physical” (to quote one of Travolta’s erstwhile co-stars). A very funny sequence (that’s also supposed to be very sexy) has Adam and Jessie facing off in one of her aerobics classes, where she pushes an increasingly risqué set of groin exercises, as if to test Adam’s ability to match her, hump for hump, in sexual endurance. The inherent narcissism of Jessie’s routine – she becomes more attracted to Adam the more he imitates her, and we might say vice versa – is enhanced by the mirrored walls of the aerobics room. In essence, the whole act of the group workout becomes masturbation en masse, with each person concentrated on his/her reflection (Jessie and Adam act as each other’s reflection). The sequence imbricates a fetish for the hardbody with an obsession over self-image, in the process becoming a perfect microcosm of ’80s vanity, topped off with an utterly vacuous pop beat (“Shock Me” by Jermaine Jackson and Whitney Houston).

Yet – surprise, surprise – Perfect is not only out to peddle gyrating gym bodies and superficial sex. Eventually serious complications arise in Jessie’s ongoing distrust of Adam as a journalist, when she discovers that he has, after all, been crafting a totally exploitative piece on the fitness centre and its horny-but-good-hearted patrons (one of whom [Larraine Newman] carries a reputation as “the most used piece of equipment in the gym,” a nickname Adam shamelessly picks up on and builds his cynical article around). Jessie breaks off the affair with Adam, remembering all too well the hurt once caused by a journalist who betrayed her trust by writing an unscrupulous article about her relationship with her Olympic swim coach. In order to woo Jessie back, Adam must take a dramatic, unprecedented stand on behalf of ethical journalism. I suppose we’re to understand from this that being “perfect” is about more than having a wicked hot bod – it’s a matter of possessing honesty and integrity, too. Razzie-founder John Wilson, in The Official Razzie Movie Guide, cuts through this baloney quite aptly, arguing that Perfect‘s real message seems to be: “Standing by your journalistic principles is good for your sex life.” It’s a shallow premise, but at least the film has a more balanced notion of what a sex life is than sleaze like Thief of Hearts and A Night in Heaven.

If anything can be said to carry Perfect, it’s Jamie Lee Curtis’ performance as Jessie. It’s a legitimately sexy star turn. The actress whipped herself into terrific shape for the role; she makes the aerobics routines sizzle, as hilarious as they often are.

And the film’s soundtrack’s not all bad. I’m now hooked on Dan Hartman’s “Talking to the Wall” thanks to Perfect – and thanks also, in no small part, to the hot-blooded Jamie Lee cardio-choreography that accompanies the song in the film.

-Cam

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A Night in Heaven (1983)

Director: John G. Avildsen

Screenplay: Joan Tewkesbury

From the Oscar-winning director of Rocky (1976) and the co-writer of Nashville (1975) comes this unbelievable mess of an ’80s romantic drama-fantasy (dramantasy?), centred on a Florida community-college professor’s affair with one of her students, who moonlights as a male stripper. The professor, Faye (Lesley Ann Warren), is having marital problems at home (her husband [Robert Logan] has lost his job at NASA, and is too tired or defeated to make love at night); the student, Rick (Christopher Atkins), is a bright but cocky 21-year-old who is paying his way through college working the peeler circuit under his nom de strip “Ricky the Rocket.”

One night Faye and a couple of her girlfriends visit the club (“Heaven”) at which Ricky is the star attraction. When he emerges for his big supergalactic dance number, among the hordes of ogling women he locks eyes with Faye (who obviously likes the kid, despite recently flunking him out of her class for his glib effort on the final exam); Ricky zeroes in on her with a series of sexy moves, and after some initial reticence on her part the two are caught in a passionate open-mouthed kiss. This will naturally have ramifications over the rest of the film, as Rick and Faye attempt to resolve their (forbidden) feelings for one another, while her suspicious husband battles with jealousy and his own feelings of inadequacy.


As much as I’ve tried to synthesize the plot for you, A Night in Heaven has to feature one of the most (unintentionally) incoherent narratives you’re likely to see out of Hollywood. Several critics (notably Roger Ebert) have surmised that large sections of Joan Tewkesbury’s potentially interesting script were excised in the cutting room, occasioning some pretty glaring leaps in the plotting and sizable gaps in the character development. I’d estimate that the husband, Whitney, suffers the most from the vagaries of the editing (for which director Avildsen is also credited). His character arc is meted out in choppy, bizarrely staggered scenes, the most random of which happens upon Whitney calmly loading a gun at his kitchen table – an almost surreal image given the filmmakers have yet to hint at this point in the story that the character is either suicidally depressed or homicidally suspicious enough to have any use for the weapon. (What Whitney finally does with the gun is equally random and ridiculous.)

I hasten to admit that A Night in Heaven does contain one extraordinary scene: the aforementioned “Ricky the Rocket” striptease. (Note: all stills in this review are taken from this scene; the scene itself can be viewed here.) The opening moments of this striptease are alone worth the price of admission: as the club emcee works the all-female audience into a frenzy of anticipation, Ricky, garbed in a disco-inspired version of an astronaut suit, rises from a blanket of fog to the opening chords of Jan Hammer and Next’s “Like What You See”; when the thumping beat of the song kicks in, Ricky takes to grinding his crotch along one of the club’s handrails as though riding a rocket like a bucking bronco. It’s all marvelously lit (love those glinting bubbles!), photographed and – yes – edited. Christopher Atkins, no doubt beloved by many as that curly-haired dude from The Pirate Movie (1982), brings an irreverence and joie de vivre to the striptease that makes it both hilariously over-the-top and surprisingly sexy, if in a highly corny sort of way. (Atkins was rewarded with a Worst Actor Golden Raspberry for his efforts; sometimes I think the Razzie folks have no sense of humour.) And in case you’re wondering, the scene doesn’t shy away from its gay connotations either, as Ricky at one point grabs the hand of the male emcee and, to the latter’s delight, playfully rubs it against his crotch.

If I were pressed to put my serious-face on and analyze the scene further, however, I’d have to concede that it does seem to evince an off-putting power imbalance (or power reversal) in the relationship between Ricky and Faye; if the latter is professionally-speaking an authority figure, she is mainly subjugated by the sexual authority of her pupil Ricky in the strip club, and at all points afterward in their affair. Faye seems positively intimidated by Ricky during the striptease, and because Ricky clearly senses this, there is a temptation to read the boy’s aggressive sexual come-ons as his (subconscious or not; harmless or not) revenge on Faye for flunking him in class – a way for the libidinous lad to gain the upper-hand. Though the film tries for a time to sell Faye and Ricky as a pair of kindred spirits (I think; one can never be sure with the editing), it remains obvious that Ricky acts as the sexual master of the relationship, guiding a trembling Faye through her paces as they conduct their illicit affair.

It’s a fairly ludicrous proposition – that the young, still-boyish Ricky could hold such sexual sway over the mature professional Faye (or perhaps it’s Lesley Ann Warren I’m thinking of) – but at least the film seems to understand this (e.g., by including an absurd scene meant to parallel the main action of the plot, in which Whitney goes to a job interview at an arcade-game company only to find that the position’s been filled by a ten-year-old boy), even if at the same time it fails to excuse the ideology behind making Faye so sexually timorous. As in Thief of Hearts (another piece of cheesy ’80s eroticism I reviewed, rather facetiously, here) the lead female character of A Night in Heaven seems fundamentally incapable of instigating sex on her own, requiring the assertive advances of a man (or man-boy) to unlock her sexual desires; this has the effect of not only denying female sexual self-determination, but also of positioning the male as both sexual liberator and sexual superior.* This is perhaps best encapsulated in Heaven by the first image of this review, where Ricky is framed from below, haloed like a glistening angel – a saviour – looking down on Faye, come to rescue her sexual soul. I’m not sure A Night in Heaven is quite coherent enough to constitute a thorough repudiation of female sexual autonomy (as Thief of Hearts does), but it does seem caught in that typically reactionary mindset of ’80s Hollywood that makes female sexual fantasy look alarmingly like male sexual fantasy. I’d love to track down Tewkesbury’s original script and find out where Avildsen’s film significantly truncated, and perhaps corrupted, her material.

Despite everything I just said, I stand by my claim that the dude from The Pirate Movie does a mean striptease.

-Cam

* Jonathan Demme effectively reverses this standard in his wonderful Something Wild (1986), in which Melanie Griffith’s flaky, fun-loving character liberates Jeff Daniels from his tight-collared repression by whisking him into bed before he knows what hit him. Griffith actually seems to enhance Daniels’ life, making him more adventurous, whereas in A Night a Heaven, Ricky only succeeds in subjecting Faye to his sexual whims, leaving her guilt-ridden about her extra-marital indiscretions.

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IMDb Top 250: The Sting (1973)

WIPE VS. IMDb

(Warning: If you haven’t seen the film, there may be spoilers below.)

Director: George Roy Hill

Screenplay: David S. Ward

IMDb rank: #99

IMDb user quote: “The caper movie uber alles . . . A magical plot, dead on art direction, brilliant supporting roles (most notably Robert Shaw, ya falla?), and the guiding hand of Redford/Newman chemistry make this one of Hollywood’s great films.” – moman818, from Los Angeles, 10/10 review

Wipe’s take: The Sting marks the second and final pairing of Robert Redford and Paul Newman, an enduringly popular duo whose initial collaboration Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) – also directed by George Roy Hill – currently sits at #148 on the IMDb top 250. It came as a bit of a surprise when The Sting took home an armful of Oscars in the spring of 1974, including Best Picture (it had been virtually shut out of the Golden Globes, earning only a screenplay nomination); however, by this time the film, a late-December-’73 release, had struck it big at the box-office and started a sensation on the Billboard charts with its soundtrack, composed mainly of old Scott Joplin piano rags adapted by Oscar-winner Marvin Hamlisch.* Today The Sting appears to have lost little of its ability to charm audiences, who remain enthralled by the Redford-Newman iconography, and perhaps even more so by the film’s playfully convoluted plot, which is divided into segments (“The Set-Up”; “The Hook”; “The Tale”; etc.) detailing the various stages leading up to the film’s climactic con (“The Sting”). As in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the keyword for The Sting is “fun”; its champions are most likely to laud the film as a supreme example of “pure entertainment.”

Viewing The Sting for the first time recently, I was indeed entertained, if not supremely so. I doubt I’m alone in confessing a penchant for films in which the characters hatch a plan that unfolds in carefully delineated stages towards some tremendously rousing payoff (I’m thinking not only of caper flicks but of prison-break perennials like The Great Escape [IMDb #100], The Bridge on the River Kwai [#70], and The Shawshank Redemption [#1]). The Sting follows this line of plotting admirably (it certainly had me “hooked,” to use the con-man parlance), except I would hesitate to call its climax rousing. When we finally reach the point at which the con-men played by Redford and Newman swindle the gangster Lonnegan (Robert Shaw) out of a half-million dollars, the victory occurs rather hastily (taking place within the last ten minutes of the film) and with surprisingly little fanfare.

Perhaps this is to the film’s credit. In an age where Soderbergh’s glitzy, preening Ocean’s trilogy sets the standard for its genre, it’s certainly nice to look back at a caper film with the good grace to underplay its climactic grift, and with the modesty not to bask in its own cleverness for too long. When Redford’s character declines his cut of the big score, telling Newman “Nah, I’d only blow it,” it’s a sign that both the character and the film itself basically mean well – for neither does it seem ultimately about the money, but rather about the humble rewards of pulling off a great story. (Actually, in the Redford character’s case it’s also about earning retribution for a pal Lonnegan had murdered. Almost forgot about that. Probably because the film’s so darn good-natured you tend to overlook the grisly murders that occasionally crop up.)

One other aspect of The Sting intrigues me, and that’s the handsomeness of Redford and Newman in contradistinction to practically all the rest of the major cast onscreen. Now, obviously, one expects that the best-looking people in the average Hollywood film will be its stars (except where Judd Apatow is concerned), but there seemed something especially pronounced about the unattractiveness of everybody but Redford and Newman in The Sting. (It also doesn’t help that Redford never looked fitter than he does in this film. Wow he’s dashing.) I’m not the first person to notice that the two lead women in The Sting are not what you’d call “conventionally attractive.” This wouldn’t bother me at all if one of these women didn’t happen to turn out to be a treacherous assassin (knew she was funny-looking for a reason!), and if the other weren’t relegated to a very unimportant role, despite the fact she’s playing Newman’s live-in love interest (knew she wouldn’t get much screen time!). Meanwhile, Robert Shaw’s character is made noticeably less attractive by means of a padded hunchback (if I’m not mistaken), and by a herky-jerky limp (which, in fairness, Shaw brought with him to the set from a recent handball accident).

Again, I should not be shocked that Redford and Newman turn out to be the most beautiful people in the cast. But I did detect a little more effort than usual put into foregrounding their beauty by surrounding them with mortal-looking people. (Plus I’m not even sure the two actors share many shots together. Better to admire them in separate close-ups I guess.) Even if I’m right, and this is the machinery of movie-star vanity at work, it hardly overwhelms the picture, which, as I previously stated, is pleasantly modest in tone and approach.

Does the movie merit top-250 status? I would say no, but it does belong near the top of any person’s list of “Movies with Impossibly Attractive Male Leads.”

-Cam

* Hamlisch’s score is often credited with reviving a ragtime craze in America, but the truth is that Joplin’s music had already enjoyed a popular resurgence a few years prior to The Sting, when Joshua Rifkin’s album of Joplin rags sold in excess of 100,000 copies in the United States. Still, the zenith of the craze has to be located in The Sting soundtrack’s reign at the top of the Billboard 2oo for five weeks in May and June of 1974. Semi-interesting footnote to all this: A Joplin biopic – called Scott Joplin – was released in 1977, starring Billy Dee Williams, and directed by Jeremy Kagan – a.k.a. the guy who would go on to direct 1983’s much-maligned The Sting II.

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Burn Hollywood Burn!

I think this music video excoriates the racial indignities of Classical (and to a large extent, Modern) Hollywood filmmaking as forcefully as any essay could. I’m posting the video today for no better reason than to offer a stark reminder of Hollywood’s ugly history, lest we forget in our jubilation over this year’s Oscars. Hollywood may have “progressed” to the point where black-themed films like Precious can stand out at the Academy Awards ceremony (6 nominations, 2 wins), but the fact remains that there have not been significant steps taken in “Tinseltown” to redress its racist and prejudicial past – or even truly to confront it. Hollywood’s quick to congratulate itself when it does something “right” (standing ovation for Mo’Nique, ladies and gentlemen!); but it doesn’t care openly to admit when it’s done something wrong. (Incidentally, Barbra Streisand’s remark before announcing Kathryn Bigelow’s name for Best Director – “Well, the time has come” – wasn’t nearly sardonic enough, for my liking.)

I’ve got an idea: How about an Oscar montage that acknowledges the shameful legacy of Hollywood racial stereotyping – a veritable cavalcade of “mammy” and “spooked Negro” clips set to the bold orchestral splashes of Bill Conti? Better yet, just show this P.E. rap video on the big screen at the Kodak Theatre, and watch the audience squirm.

I shudder to think that the new liberal Academy may be delusional enough to cheer along as Chuck D and crew bid them all to go up in flames.

-Cam

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Pote tin Kyriaki (Never on Sunday) (1960)

HAPPY 50th 1960-2010

Director: Jules Dassin

Screenplay: Jules Dassin

Five years after his career defining Du rififi chez les hommes, writer/director/actor Jules Dassin returned with Pote tin Kyriaki, a film which earned Melina Mercouri a best actress award at the Cannes Film Festival and composer Manos Hatzidakis an Oscar for best original song.

Pote tin Kyriaki centers around Iliya, the most popular and sought after prostitute in all of the fishing village of Piraeus, Greece.  Iliya is something of a hedonist with three main rules that she lives by: 1. She makes no prices 2. She’ll only have sex with clients whom she likes and 3.  Each Sunday she has all her special friends over for a party.

Mercouri handles Iliya with just the right amounts of grace and toughness that the character demands, rounding Iliya into more than just a fun loving prostitute.  But it’s Iliya’s morally corrupt lifestyle that attracts the attention of American philosopher Homer Thrace (Jules Dassin), who’s in Greece searching for something more than what he’s read in books on the fall of ancient Greece.  He wants to know exactly what lead such a highly refined society to collapse.  Deciding that Iliya embodies the transition of ancient Greece from beauty to moral corruption and decline, he makes it his goal to “purify” Iliya through books, music and art.

While Pote tin Kyriaki‘s greatest delights come from watching Mercouri’s confidence as she holds an almost emasculating sway over the men that follow her around, the biggest disappointment of the film is its inability to properly organize the themes and conflicts that it focuses on. Dassin’s Homer comes off as a pretentious, irritating and condescending American college boy – intentional no doubt, but the character’s failure to come to any sort of real understanding about life feels like a betrayal of everything that the film was building toward.  The same can be said for Iliya, whose decisions and transformations are fickle at best.

Certainly there’s nothing wrong with a film having simple conclusions and messages, however, when a film is mired in existential and philosophical questions, only to offer up a weak resolve delivered through a single line of dialogue, well…I can’t help but feel more than a little cheated.  After all, the relationship between Homer and Iliya is strong and there certainly is an onscreen chemistry between the pair (Mercouri and Dassin went on to marry in 1966), but the film would have been better off taking on only what it could handle in terms of the internal struggles of its characters, rather than scratching the surface of numerous interesting questions only to later abandon them.

Love and morality are powerful themes to explore in any film and for that very reason, they deserve more than a semi-superficial dabbling.  A far better example of these themes in action would undoubtedly be Federico Fellini’s excellent Le notti di Cabiria. However, for all its shortcomings, Pote tin Kyriaki does cast a spell on its viewer, providing a sweet and humorous look at the enjoyment of life through the eyes of an entertaining character as immortalized by an even more entertaining actress.

-mike

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Thief of Hearts (1984)

Director: Douglas Day Stewart

Screenplay: Douglas Day Stewart

A perfect title for a near-perfect piece of soft-core trash. The producing team of Jerry Bruckheimer and the late Don Simpson are responsible for this erotic thriller, so you know it’s “sexy” as a bad 80s music video and features overripe pop ballads with vaguely porny lyrics like, “Take the danger / take the pleasure / take the fear / Run sensations to the limit / Life’s so near” (these come courtesy of Harold Faltermeyer and Keith Forsey).

The film stars Steven Bauer as a hunky burglar who robs the manse of a well-to-do couple (Barbara Williams and John Getz) and accidentally makes off with the wife’s journals, which happen to contain her sultry sexual fantasies. The wife, Mickey (or “Michelle,” as she calls her sexual alter ego), naturally frets that the burglar is out there somewhere getting off on her journal entries. And he is: Bauer stays up nights paging voraciously through the journals, sweating during the naughtier bits, and taking notes on “Michelle’s” fantasy man, with the intent of using this information to seduce Mickey. When he later poses as a client for Mickey’s interior decorating firm, it’s not long before “Thief of Hearts” Bauer has landed his conquest, and—shocker!—fallen in love. Of course, eventually the guy’s got to be made out for the perv he is. What is semi-interesting about the fallout from Bauer’s deceit is how it redounds on Mickey: she’s chided for creating in the first place the fantasy image Bauer so ably fulfills. Herein lies the film’s coded reactionary message—woman, be the wife, dote on thy husband—as might be expected from director/writer Douglas Day Stewart, who was also responsible for the script to the anti-feminist An Officer and a Gentleman earlier in the decade.

Still, Thief of Hearts is too brainless to take the aforementioned bit of ideology half-way seriously. The movie traffics in a number of obvious signifiers: e.g., you know the cuckolded husband is sexless because he writes children’s books and wears spectacles; conversely, you know Steven Bauer’s hot-to-trot because he has a firing range in his loft and occasionally takes Mickey out on his yacht so she can watch him massage cocoa butter all over his rippling, hairy chest and down his groin. (But you know Bauer’s also sensitive, see, because early in the film he lays a couple extra C-notes on a doe-eyed eighteen-year-old hooker he, with all apologies, isn’t in the mood to bang.) And just in case you forget you’re watching an 80s film, Mickey’s interior decoration consists of incorporating giant, tacky triangles and circles into her clients’ decor. Oh, and David Caruso kicks around as Bauer’s burglar buddy, looking—uncannily—like a redheaded Morrissey (circa Viva Hate) and snorting blow of the tip of his butterfly knife.

I can’t lie, this stuff is hilarious to me folks, but it’s probably not for all tastes. The hot-and-heavy aesthetic of the movie reminded me a little of this album insert for Prince’s 1999, only you get the impression with Prince that he’s intentionally dosing his sex with kinky, campy humour. Thief of Hearts plays it deadly serious, which of course makes it even higher camp. I’m afraid if I call the film a “guilty pleasure” you’ll accuse me of encouraging you to go out and see it. Well, what can I say, guilty as charged.

-Cam

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