[box cover]

Liebestraum

Mike Figgis' moody Liebestraum is one of the more obscure entries into the noir redux of the early 1990s, and that seems to be exactly what Figgis had in mind. Never one to court commercialism, Figgis best' known films, Internal Affairs and Leaving Las Vegas, suceeded, despite his arty flourishes, thanks to strong performances by bonafide movie stars like Richard Gere and Nicolas Cage, respectively. Sadly, Liebestraum, while interesting, lacks such a charismatic central performance. Kevin Anderson — a fine supporting actor who memorably played Bobby Kennedy in 1992's Hoffa — tries to tackle the elliptically sketched lead character of Nick Kaminsky. Kaminsky is a passionate historian of architecture who wanders into the provincial hometown of his estranged birth parents and begins rebuilding, and reliving, their sordid, tragic past. The problem with Anderson's performance, as well as paramour Pamela Gidley's, is that Figgis is preoccupied with concept and mood. His actors, therefore, are left to drift in the film's current and must assert themselves to make impact, which they don't. As solid as Anderson and Gidley may be, Figgis' style demands star performances or his experiments fizzle. The better turns come from the supporting actors, most of whom seem to have been directed by David Lynch (like the grouchy old hotel night clerk, a Lynch staple), and they fill their slightly contrived roles with eccentric menace, necessary or not. Overall, the picture's pace is slow, and although it feels like Figgis is on to a provocative idea, ultimately all the film's gestures fall flat, motivated by cinematic need rather than narrative logic. MGM has released the mildly arty Liebestraum under their Avant-Garde Cinema imprint, which is a bit like including The Wizard of Oz on a list of Hollywood's greatest thrillers. However, as MGM is unlikely to be releasing any Stan Brakhage or Maya Deren films on DVD, this may be as good as fans of the Avant-Garde are likely to get. The film is given an adequate, unspectacular anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) with audio in 2.0 Dolby Surround. Includes one long deleted scene in a whorehouse, which may not only have been too racy for a studio release, but seems to have nothing do with the rest of the film. Trailer, keep-case.
—Gregory P. Dorr



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