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The Comfort of Strangers Movie Review

mirren everett walken natasha

1961's Last Year at Marienbad has gone begging for the perfect film to round out a double bill suitable for residents of Limbo and/or Purgatory. Now at last there IS one! The Comfort of Strangers, the latest from everybody's favorite divinity school dropout: Grand Rapids, Michigan's own Paul Schrader. Let's hear it! Or to be more precise, let's hear whaaat? How about some hot dialogue from the one and only Harold Pinter, Schrader's accomplice in this cinematic minefield. HE: “Why is there no other word for thigh?” SHE: “It's a perfectly good word, what's wrong with it?” HE: “Yes, but….” Then HE goes on to list a dreary and depressing series of anatomical euphemisms and bemoans the fate of the humble word “thigh.” This riveting sequence says a lot about the rest of the film. Natasha Richardson plays a young British mother of two who leaves them at home to travel to Venice with her even-more British lover Rupert Everett. The match is not made in heaven, and it's clear that they are beginning to bore each other. There are only a zillion restaurants in Venice, but one night they can't find one and who should crawl out of the nearest dark alley but a slimy stranger in a white suit? (Christopher Walken, of course, typecast this time with an all-purpose Italian-Bavarian accent!) They follow the stranger down some dark alleys to a crummy bar he assures them is really good, but turns out to be HIS bar, where no food is available. They chew on breadsticks, swallow wine, and listen to stories from this character, who amazingly, is even more boring than they are. The next morning, the couple wakes up in the street where SHE gets sick. The next day, they try to avoid the stranger, but he drags them to his house, anyway. His “Canadian” wife is Helen Mirren, who watches them while they sleep and then tells them about it. Before they all have dinner that night, Walken punches Everett in the stomach for no good reason. The couple resumes their stupefyingly dull holiday until they see Mirren waving to them from her window. Not wishing to be rude, they pop in to say hello. Walken invites Everett to follow him down more dark alleys, Mirren prepares a drink for Natasha Richardson, and two people walk out of the movie theatre, one of them hissing, “Oh, the English!” Three guys in front of me are in stitches, I am in stitches, and at least one stuffed shirt is disgusted with all of us for not accepting this beautiful work of art with appropriate reverence. Our reaction probably counts as two venial sins, at least. I went home and enjoyed watching Goldfinger AND Arsenic and Old Lace, which just may count as FOUR mortal sins, oh dear. My Dinner with Androids, whoops, sooo sorry, we did mean The Comfort of Strangers, is available for your consideration on home video. woof!

1991 (R) 102m/C Christopher Walken, Natasha Richardson, Rupert Everett, Helen Mirren; D: Paul Schrader; W: Harold Pinter; C: Dante Spinotti; M: Angelo Badalamenti. VHS, Closed Caption

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