House of the Sleeping Beauties

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Opens: Friday, Nov. 14 (First Run Features)

Writer-director Vadim Glowna has given himself an enviable starring role in "House of Sleeping Beauties."

Playing an elderly man patronizing a mysterious brothel, the German filmmaker spends much of the film's running time lying naked in bed with a variety of gorgeous, supine women in a similar state of undress.

Based on an acclaimed novella by Japanese author Yasunari Kawabata, the film is one of those self-consciously atmospheric literary adaptations that suffer from a surfeit of symbolism and pretentiousness.

The central character is Edmond (Glowna), an elderly widower suffering from depression in his not-so-golden years. So he's fairly receptive to the suggestion from an old friend (Maximilian Schell) that he visit the establishment that gives the film its title, run by an enigmatic madame (Angela Winkler).

There, Edmond spends his nights cuddling up to but not having sex with a series of beautiful women who have somehow been reduced to a state of impenetrable unconsciousness. As he gazes at their perfect bodies, he's prompted to deliver a series of soul-baring monologues, including an account of the traumatic death of his wife and daughter in a possibly suicidal car crash.

The filmmaker attempts to enliven the necessarily static ruminations about such subjects as sex and death with numerous visual flourishes, including ominous repeated images of ravens. Even less successful is the story's brief foray into thriller territory, when Edmond spots an obviously dead body being snuck out of the house.

Ultimately, the film doesn't succeed in its thematic aspirations, proving yet again that great literature doesn't usually transfer successfully to the screen.

Cast: Vadim Glowna, Angela Winkler, Maximilian Schell, Birol Unel, Mona Glass.
Director-screenwriter: Vadim Glowna.
Producers: Vadim Glowna, Raymond Tarabay.
Director of photography: Ciro Cappallari
Production designer: Peter Weber
Music: Nikolaus Glowna, Siggi Muller
Editor: Charlie Lezin
No rating, 99 minutes.


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