'Venice/Venice': Baby, it's me, me, me

July 19, 1993|By Stephen Hunter | Stephen Hunter,Film Critic

Masochists are hereby officially notified that the new Henry Jaglom film, "Venice/Venice," not only written and directed by but starring Jaglom, is on tap at the Charles tonight and tomorrow night. Such delirious pain is rarely available so cheaply and without a long wait reading last year's People magazines in a dentist's office.

Jaglom is Woody Allen without a shred of humor or genius, a monster of smug self-love and preening narcissism who has managed to con his way to a mini-cult rep as a "personal" and "candid" filmmaker in a series of movies about How Hard It Is to Be Henry Jaglom. But even by his standards, "Venice/Venice" breaks through some kind of membrane and achieves pitch-perfect horror. It's a bon-bon of the vanities.

Jaglom casts himself as Dean, a filmmaker world-renowned for his "risk-taking" and "emotional truth-telling ." He's being lionized at the Venice Film Festival, which is a drag (being asked all those silly questions), but one of his interrogators, a sloe-eyed French woman (Nelly Alard) clearly is in love with him. Thus, a good portion of the film is spent watching a woman, instructed to be in love with Henry Jaglom, allowing herself to be seduced by Henry Jaglom and his particular brand of penny-dreadful emotional psycho-babble. He hasn't merely found his Inner Child, he's all Inner Child.

To be fair, Jaglom seems to understand that he's playing a monster, a remote, exploitative, self-involved jerk. To be truthful, he's not willing to go far enough and allow himself to be hated. He's hopelessly sentimental about his own personality, and regards his grotesque flaws as cute little tics. Like a big, sloppy but cuddly dog, he knows that he will always be forgiven by his admirers. The sight of the spectacle made my flesh crawl.

Back in Venice, Calif., Henry holds court, again surrounded by admiring women who have been instructed to gaze at him as if he's Adonis, Michael Bolton and Michael Stipe all rolled into one, instead of a balding, heavy-lidded lounge lizard with a mile-long line of bull. He's also one of those guys who's always touching women. He can't talk to them without running his hands up and down their arms. Ughk. In any town but H-wood, he'd be arrested for mashing.

Complications ensue when Nelly Alard shows up, uninvited. Now he's got three women in love with him under the same roof. Problems, problems!

I tried, I fought it, I stayed with it until . . . he takes us to a casting call for Dean's "next movie" and the aspiring actresses up for the part of his wife are instructed to improvise a scene in which they tell him why they love him.

It was too much. Color me out of there. I slipped out the back, Jack.

MOVIE REVIEW

"Venice/Venice"

Starring Henry Jaglom

Directed by Henry Jaglom

Released by Rainbow Films

Unrated

*

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