If you've got a husband to kill, you couldn't have a better friend than
Sharon Stone - per this American adaptation of the 1954 French classic by
Henri-Georges Clouzot. Sharon Stone is this year's Madonna: she's gutsy
enough to try to inhabit a role made famous by the great, earthy Simone
Signoret, and she's got enough self-irony to vamp through the sexy parts
and attempt to act when it's called for. Whether you like it (her) or not,
Sharon Stone is what makes this movie worth watching.
The setting is a seedy boys school, where Ms. Stone teaches math. (Hey!
Henri-Georges wasn't this funny!) Isabelle Adjani, who is always guaranteed
to take off her clothes, does it in the first scene, so we get it over with
and can get on with the plot. Plot? It's great: wife and mistress team
up to murder a really deserving victim. He got this miserable by having
to deal with Sharon and being married to Isabella, whose interpretation
of the wife is basically Munch's The Scream. They all deserve each other.
The question is, who's going to commit the biggest betrayal?
"Diabolique" has been begging to be remade for years. During
my own brief stint as a film executive, I read at least four adaptations,
and I knew then - as these filmmakers found out - no widow of a famous French
autour was going to let a gang of Americans desecrate the French equivalent
of "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof."
For all of you film students, think about "Diabolique" as the
ideal international co-production. Reading the credits is like eavesdropping
on the executives who decided to make it. "Sharon Stone in the lead?
It's a go." "Adjani? Wow! Two sex symbols in one movie!"
"Chazz Palminteri? Head to head against the Coen Brothers!"
"A French remake? Film my noir and call it auteurism!" And
the ancillary guys drool, "Video forever!"
There's nothing wrong with "Diabolique" as Hollywood entertainment.
But classy or meaningful it's not. It's simply a spoof of French film
noir. The test will be how the French take it; they're not a nation graced
with self-irony. They like mystique, and the only mystifying thing in the
picture is why Chazz didn't kill the chicks first.