An English couple holiday in Venice to sort out their relationship. There is some friction and distance between them, and we also sense they are being watched. One evening, they lose their way looking for a restaurant, and a stranger invites them to accompany him. He plies them with wine and grotesque stories from his childhood. They leave disoriented, physically ill, and morally repelled. But, next day, when the stranger sees them in the piazza, they accept an invitation to his sumptuous flat. After this visit, the pair find the depth to face questions about each other, only to be drawn back into the mysterious and menacing fantasies of the stranger and his mate.Written by
Let me tell you something: My father was a very big man. And all his life he wore a black mustache. When it was no longer black, he used a small brush, such as ladies use for their eyes. Mascara.
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The best way to approach Paul Schrader's stylish but unsettling new film is without any knowledge of the (admittedly slim) plot, involving two innocents abroad and their fateful encounter in decadent Venice with a local couple whose Old World manners hide a malignant obsession. This isn't the romantic Venice of many a travel guide, but a dark and ominous maze of Byzantine alleys and dead end streets, and Schrader gives the city a wonderfully rich and gritty sense of after-hours entropy. Harold Pinter's screenplay is likewise (and typically) indirect, but the combination of an incredibly dense and evocative mood with the author's teasing lack of narrative helps to create a feeling of almost unspeakable dread. The film is certainly an acquired taste: perverse and pretentious in the old-fashioned European art house tradition (and, at times, oddly and inappropriately comic), but the effect can be disturbing to viewers caught in the right frame of mind.
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