The rondelay structure of Arthur Schniztler's dazzling Reigen, written in 1896, is appropriated by this anemic chronicle of money grubbing New Yorkers and their serial loveless hook ups. A fledgling streetwalker, Greta (Vera Farmiga), solicits an unhappy contractor, Eddie (Domenick Lombardozzi), who has a quickie with unhappy trophy wife Ellen (Jill Hennessey). Ellen's art-dealer husband (Malcolm Gets), who's just acknowledged his repressed bisexuality, puts the moves on a cynical painter (Steve Buscemi), who in turn picks up a wary gallery receptionist Ana (Rosario Dawson), whose boyfriend, Nick (Adrian Grenier), is away in San Francisco. Stung by Ana's infidelity, Nick spends an erotically charged day with an older woman (Carol Kane), who dispenses psychic advice by phone to a desperate bond salesman (Michael Imperioli) who brings the love connection full circle when he propositions Greta. The circle of desire is a provocative storytelling conceit, brilliantly realized in Max Ophuls' LA RONDE (1950) and utilized with varying degrees of success in such films as CIRCLE OF LOVE (1964), NEW YORK NIGHTS (1984) and ECLIPSE (1995). But its potency is diluted by the fluid social structure of modern-day New York; Schnitzler's 19th-century characters were bound by class stratifications so rigid that only the irresistible force of sexual appetite could breach the walls between chambermaids, bourgeois businessmen, army officers and society matrons. But relationships that cross boundaries of class, color and status are too common in the 21st century — or, to be precise, late 20th; the film is set during the millennial dot.com gold rush, though you wouldn't know it if you hadn't read the press notes to carry the thrill of transgression. So first-time writer-director Peter Mattei stresses the underlying taint of commerce that informs each encounter (hence the film's title), from the outright exchange of cash for services to the promise of a career-enhancing gallery show or picking up $12 drinks at a chi-chi bar, just as Schnitzler's erotic frolics were tarnished by the shadow of venereal disease. Despite the experienced cast, performances are highly variable (Buscemi is the standout), as is the digital video cinematography most of the interior scenes are professionally sleek, but exterior shots are often murky. The contemplative closing montage of eerily deserted locations where various encounters unfolded earlier owes a considerable debt of imagination to the genuinely poignant conclusion of Richard Linklater's BEFORE SUNRISE (1995).
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- Released: 2002
- Rating: R
- Review: The rondelay structure of Arthur Schniztler's dazzling Reigen, written in 1896, is appropriated by this anemic chronicle of money grubbing New Yorkers and their serial loveless hook ups. A fledgling streetwalker, Greta (Vera Farmiga), solicits an unhappy c… (more)