Saturday, January 04, 2014
"Original Sin" isn't always ancestral (but it does create "Body Heat")
The 2001 thriller “Original Sin” by Michael Cristofer, comes across as a weaker execution of “Body Heat” (1981, Lawrence Kasdan, one of the great suspense films of the 80’s), even though it is said to be a remake of Francois Truffaut film “Mississippi Mermaid” (1969) based on the novel “Waltz into Darkness” by Cornell Wollrich (aka William Irish or George Hopley).
The film is a period piece, set in late 19th Century Cuba, under Spanish rule, long before the days of “The Lost City”. Luis Vargas (Antonio Banderas) is an old style capitalist businessman who got rich on sugar cane and local labor. He gets set up by a femme fatale Julia Russell (Angelina Jolie) almost arranged by others to be his bride. The problem is that she is an imposter, Bonny Castle.
But the couple is passionate, and seems to be in love. Luis learns of the deception from a letter. Imagine how it would feel that someone you have a crush on is not who he or she seems to be (even in a gay context). Another character, Walter Downs (Thomas Jane, most attractive) offers to work with him to disclose the ruse, but is really playing both sides of the issue, doubling as Billy.
The movie is told in retrospect as Bonny is about to be executed, but she and Luis have one last trick up their sleeves, winding up in romantic Morocco.
The film (rented from Netflix) seems to be a bit of a manipulation, with plot tricks (and fake shootings) that seem clever but don’t matter a lot to us. There’s even a “gay” scene where Luis kisses Walter, rather passionately, before “shooting” him.
The film, which MGM regards as a classic now, offers a great tile song, “You can’t walk away from love”. The film score includes piano music by Schumann, Chopin and Granados (effective), and some choral music by Berlioz. Will MGM return as a major studio on its own? Maybe Oprah has something to say about this.
So are women intrinsically responsible for “ancestral sin”?
First picture: National Harbor, 2013 (mine); second, Panama, around 1987 (Mother's estate, mine now!)