'Night Is Falling' isn't true to its school of thought

February 16, 1996|By STEPHEN HUNTER | STEPHEN HUNTER,SUN FILM CRITIC

"When Night Is Falling" is a glitzy, near-porn film the Charles has brought in to rotate with the refined "Shanghai Triad." It's a lesbian seduction drama, filmed by Patricia Rozema in the gauzy, opulent style of the kind of high-end porn that you don't have to wrap in brown paper.

The movie is very programmatic: repressed Camille (Pascale Bussieres) is a theology professor at a conservative Protestant college in Canada, sharing a not terribly passionate affair with co-professor Martin (Henry Czerny). One day, at the laundromat, Camille meets the gamine-like free spirit and circus performer Petra (Rachael Crawford) and feels something move inside her that she never knew existed. Petra suavely seduces her, ultimately getting her to see the way.

All through the film, lesbianism is associated with magic and liberation, while the heterosexuality that Martin stands for is authoritarian, power-crazed, masculine. Yet the element of hypocrisy involved is that the movie, with its insistence on beautiful women's skin tones and shapely body parts, really connects far more with male tastes than female. It doesn't remotely resemble the world depicted in the honest lesbian drama "Go Fish" a few years back. This is just syrupy tripe for people too meek to rent an X-rated tape.

Unrated (sexually vivid) **

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