Film Scouts Reviews


by Karen Jaehne

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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.

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