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Original Sin

movie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Original Sin

Starring: Antonio Banderas, Angelina Jolie
Director: Michael Cristofer
Rated: R
RunTime: 112 Minutes
Release Date: August 2001
Genres: Erotica, Suspense

*Also starring: Thomas Jane, Pedro Armendariz Jr., Allison Mackie, Joan Pringle, Jack Thompson

Review by Jerry Saravia
No Rating Supplied

While watching the over-exaggerated histrionics and sexual biplay of "Original Sin," all I could think of was how much more I admire Stanley Kubrick's wildly panned last hurrah, "Eyes Wide Shut." If you recall, "Eyes Wide Shut" was the infamous film starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman that dealt with jealousy in a marriage and sexual innuendoes. Except for the de-eroticized orgy, most of "Eyes Wide Shut" left sexual romps to the imagination. It was all done with class, style and sophistication and left audiences puzzled and frustrated, particularly since one was not privy to seeing Kidman and Cruise in their birthday suits. "Original Sin" delivers on its promise of promiscuity, sex and tons of nudity - yes, Angelina Jolie is naked throughout this film. And so is the leading romantic star Antonio Banderas. And it is all about as sexy and erotic as any episode of "Red Shoe Diaries."

Based on the novel "Waltz into Darkness" by Cornell Woolrich, the film begins with a Cuban coffee planter, Luis Durand (Antonio Banderas), who is ready to marry a mail-order bride. His interests are primarily lustful since he does not believe in love ("Love is for those who believe in it.") Durand meets the bride named Julia Russell (Angelina Jolie) although she looks nothing like the photograph she sent him. This should be cause for alarm but Durand is, after all, rather smitten (hey, it is Lara Croft after all!). They agree that they can't trust each other since he told her he was a worker at a coffee plant, not the owner. What is striking about this scene is how lovingly composed it is. Director Michael Cristofer ("Gia") takes a cue from Martin Scorsese's "The Age of Innocence" by showing us Durand's subjective glances at the striking figure of Julia, dissolving from shots of her hair, lips, eyes, hands, etc. After seeing this sequence, I was convinced that Cristofer was g! oing to rein us in on one heck o f a full-blooded, passionate love story. Not so.

What starts as a sumptuous mood piece quickly degenerates into heavy, over-the-top melodrama. Julia is not what she seems since she takes Durand's money and splits. Durand is heartbroken, so much that he is ready to kill her only to then realize he is actually ready to kill for her (?). He hires a private investigator (Thomas Jane) to find her, though the investigator has already been looking for her for reasons that should be obvious to anyone who loves melodramas of this type. Revelations take place as does twists and turns, all foreseeable if, again, you have not lived in a monastery for the last twenty years. Oh, yes, but we do see Banderas and Jolie cavorting in the nude, in high-angle, softly pornographic scenes that only made me yawn. To call this eroticism is to forget what true eroticism is - consider the lovemaking scene between Greta Scacchi and Tim Robbins in "The Player," which is as erotic as they come. Even Bertolucci's "Last Tango in Paris" had a modicum of nud! ity. The sex scenes in this film play like a Playfold centerfold with Jolie at its center - it is no different than any soft-porno film you might catch late at night on HBO.

Perhaps "Original Sin" was meant to be melodramatic (I have not read the book nor seen Truffaut's original film version) but it is so high-pitched complete with a grating soundtrack of Spanish songs that it becomes a chore to sit through. Banderas succeeds in making Durand a torn man and I do enjoy watching Jolie, a stunning screen presence. They just do not have an iota of chemistry and since the characters are so one-dimensional, it is hard to care about them. Thomas Jane's role is crudely overdone and simply too cartoonish. The ending is such a howler and so nearly parodic that the whole audience erupted in laughter. "Original Sin" simply needed to be dialed down a bit for its own good.

Copyright 2001 Jerry Saravia

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