Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5. United Kingdom/France, 1992. Nouvelles Editions de Films, Skreba Films, StudioCanal, European Co-production Fund, Channel Four Films, Canal+. Screenplay by David Hare, based on the novel by Josephine Hart. Cinematography by Peter Biziou. Produced by Louis Malle. Music by Zbigniew Preisner. Production Design by Brian Morris. Costume Design by Milena Canonero. Film Editing by John Bloom. Academy Awards 1992. Golden Globe Awards 1992. New York Film Critics Awards 1992.
Jeremy Irons plays a successful politician with the perfect life, his gorgeous frosty wife (Miranda Richardson) the perfect companion for his ambitions, and his handsome son (Rupert Graves) making his own way in the field of journalism. When Graves brings home a beautiful woman (Juliette Binoche) with whom he is getting serious, she and Irons have an immediate attraction that, mostly without words, leads to them cavorting in hotel rooms. The kind of bliss that comes from indulging in erotic passion cannot last long, however, and soon paradise gives way to the fall; the giveaway was that Binoche can barely unclasp a garter belt without telling stories about her tragic past and the rotten ways that sexuality has contributed to her development as an adult woman. It should be a delicious indulgence in carnality (the racier scenes really are very sexy, and the two leads have great chemistry), an intellectual anti-dote to the nearly campy success of Basic Instinct the same year, but director Louis Malle is surprisingly ambivalent about the film’s tone and tries to have it both ways: its pedigree does a poor job of masking the lack of intellectual depth (despite a script by David Hare), making Basic Instinct seem a lot more honest about being an excuse for an onscreen sex-fest. Richardson is marvelous in her few scenes, particularly when the conclusion allows her to express rage without being a shrewish reject, but the melodramatic nature of the erotic punishment is too much to be believed and the conclusion is simply ridiculous.