Close My Eyes

A remarkably accomplished and beautiful second feature by English playwright Stephen Poliakoff, whose previous movie (the 1987 Hidden City) apparently hasn’t been shown in the U.S., this lyrical drama might be described as a period film about the present. The plot concerns an incestuous affair that suddenly develops between a grown brother (Clive Owen) and sister (Saskia Reeves) who grew up with separate parents; the sister, now married to a wealthy entrepreneur (Alan Rickman), insists on ending the affair after the brother becomes hopelessly smitten with her. There’s nothing prurient about Poliakoff’s handling of this subject, though the movie certainly has its erotic moments. The focus is rather on how we live today–including the complications of sex and the chaos of recent real estate development, in which the brother is professionally involved: Poliakoff uses the incest theme as a pivot for an elegiac, quasi-apocalyptic, and ineffably sad reflection on life in the early 90s. (Though the settings and tone are quite different, this film may remind one in spots of Richard Lester’s underrated Petulia.) Most of the story takes place during an unusually hot English summer, and the settings are almost surreally radiant; the acting of the three leads is edgy, powerful, and wholly convincing, with Rickman (whose other recent films include Die Hard, Quigley Down Under, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, and Truly Madly Deeply) a particular standout. The haunting music is by Michael Gibbs (1991). (Music Box, Friday through Thursday, February 14 through 20)

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