There's almost a surfeit of visual style on display here, but murder, mystery, and incest do not quite make effective bedfellows in INNOCENT LIES.
In September, 1938, British Inspector Cross (Adrian Dunbar) travels across the Channel to a palace-like estate in Calais to investigate the murder of his old friend Joe Greene (Donal McCann). The household is headed by the severe, tight-lipped Lady Graves (Joanna Lumley) and includes her son
Jeremy (Stephen Dorff), daughter-in-law Maud (Marianne Denicourt), daughter Celia (Gabrielle Anwar), and her fiance Christopher (Alexis Denisof). With the local Prefect Montfort (Bernard Haller) reluctantly cooperating, Cross quickly uncovers previous unexplained deaths in the household, including
that of Jeremy's twin brother when he was a child, and Celia's previous fiance. He also observes that there is more than a brother-sister relationship between Jeremy and Celia, with whom Cross is soon helplessly in love.
Lady Graves turns up dead by strangulation, and the evidence implicates Celia, but during hectic lovemaking, Celia confesses to Cross that she and Jeremy killed her together, as they did his twin brother as children. Celia, who is now terrified of Jeremy's deteriorating mental state, is spirited
out of jail by Cross, but at the train station where he has deposited her, Jeremy suddenly appears and begins making love to her. When he begins to strangle her, Celia kills him with a pair of scissors. A distraught Cross bursts in to find Celia huddled in a corner, apparently regressing to
Most films dealing with aberrant sexual psychology are not themselves schizophrenic, but INNOCENT LIES is, since director Patrick DeWolf, who cowrote the screenplay with Kerry Crabbe, completely jettisons his murder-mystery plot in favor of the incest drama. Joe Greene's murder remains unsolved
and unexplained. The film has all the elements for a classy tale of family intrigue, but what is on screen does not impress the viewer, despite stylish direction by DeWolf, who expertly utilizes a slowly revelatory flashback structure for Jeremy and Celia's initial murder, and solid performances
by Adrian Dunbar (CRYING GAME, HEAR MY SONG, MY LEFT FOOT) and Gabrielle Anwar (SCENT OF A WOMAN, BODY SNATCHERS, FOR LOVE OR MONEY). 1970s star Joanna Lumley, working on her first film since the 1983 CURSE OF THE PINK PANTHER, is properly, stoically reticent--what a family she has got to contend
with, let alone those rumored ties with the Nazis. Up and coming actor Stephen Dorff (BACKBEAT, JUDGMENT NIGHT, S.F.W.) unfortunately remains almost totally uninteresting and unsympathetic; he is not tragically afflicted, just nuts.
While the production's 1938 setting is strongly detailed in the beginning and end, it somewhat oddly disappears in the middle, with Cross's immersion into the beautiful but "haunted" house and its oddball occupants. A British-French coproduction, the movie, superbly shot in wide-screen by Patrick
Blossier (DR. PETIOT), was theatrically released in Europe as HALCYON DAYS, before heading to video and pay-cable TV in the US under the literally nonsensical title INNOCENT LIES. (Violence, nudity, sexual situations, profanity.)
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