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Husbands and Lovers Reviews

Alternately torpid and unintentionally hilarious, HUSBANDS AND LOVERS utterly trivializes the Alberto Moravia novel upon which it is based. Judging from the shiny, healthy tresses of the leads and how self-consciously they toss their manes, you might think this glossy sexual rondelay were written by Alberto VO5. Stricken by the chronic ennui that once afflicted the heroines of Antonioni and Resnais, Alina (Joanna Pacula) not only wants her screenwriter husband Stefan (Julian Sands) to condone her affair with pianist Paolo (Tcheky Karyo) but also to indulge her need for honesty by relishing the details of her vacation from marriage. Obsessed with his wife, Stefan gets no satisfaction from any of the other women he beds and can barely concentrate on his new screenplay about a teenage nymphet. Peeved with his wife's running commentary on her infidelity with kinky Paolo, Stefan keeps breaching the terms of their open marriage agreement. But ultimately Alina and Paolo cross the thin line between love and hate when he spanks, rapes, then beats her. Having failed to kill Alina during one of his voyeuristic forays, Stefan welcomes back the retired sexual pioneer when she tires of touching up her bruises. Truly made for each other, they can now indulge in boring conversations about love and pain, pausing only to have conventional sex. If only the running time weren't so padded out with stunning scenery, HUSBANDS AND LOVERS might have been a bad movie classic. It's too slow for that, but it could still serve as a model for anyone wishing to parody foreign films of the 60s. Never in the history of cinema have there been two such supremely self-absorbed bores, intellectualizing all the vitality out of their passions. If only the pace were picked up and viewers could get to the unintentionally hilarious pronouncements sooner! The occasional pleasure of staring at beautiful bodies--male and female, for once--is far outweighed by the torture of witnessing their ludicrous emotional posturing and their zombie-like ramblings. When Pacula utters lines like "He wanted to rip the sex out of me!" with Garbo-like detachment, what other response is there but snickers? Whenever the camera holds on Pacula or Sands, the sexual dynamics seem to shrivel before our eyes because neither actor commands our attention. Long before the fade-out, you'll give up caring whether Sand's sexual frustration symbolizes his writer's block or vice versa. As for Sands (increasingly a good indication that you're watching a bomb), he seems to be stuck in a rut doing his own version of Jeremy Irons sans talent. Never has seriousness seemed so funny or so prolonged. (Violence, sexual situations, profanity.)