Directed by Agnieszka Holland. Written by Christopher Hampton. Strangely, despite a literate script by Christopher Hampton "Dangerous Liaisons"a handsome production design and Holland's rigorous, meticulous direction, "Total Eclipse" opening today at Bay Area theaters, and not to be confused with "Eclipse," which opened yesterday at the Castro is a stinging disappointment -- in large part because of its star.
The lives of tortured artists have always made for fascinating film fare. From Amadeus to Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circledramatic re-creations of the often-frenzied, always-tormented lives of "great" men and women have captivated audiences.
Watching Total Eclipse's nineteenth century French poets, Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud, engage in endless arguments about the nature of love, you wonder when they had time to produce the kind of poetry that revolutionized the world of letters. And considering the profound influence that Rimbaud's work had on such figures as Jack Kerouac, Bob Dylan and Jim Morrison, Agnieszca Holland's new movie provides only scant clues about his genius. Holland Europa, Europa, The Secret Garden should be commended for steering away from Hollywood's time-worn cliches of the biopicture, a genre which tends to make very different artists appear the same, no matter how idiosyncratic their personalities.
What else can one say of a husband who cheerfully reports, "I haven't set fire to her since Thursday"? One would feel sorry for them if both men were not depicted in the film as unpleasant, sniveling, monstrous, egotistical and annoying. Unlike the brilliant "Withnail," it lacks any sense of humor, and is under the delusion that its subjects are interesting because they are great poets. That only makes their poetry interesting.
I don't know, maybe I just asked the wrong questions but on Tuesday, the day on which Leonardo DiCaprio received his Oscar nomination, I meet DiCaprio the serious artist, and DiCaprio the ecowarrior and DiCaprio the impassioned idealist, and it's only the next day that I get to meet DiCaprio the 'Hollywood hellraiser' - the boozy, chain-smoking, skirtchasing one - and that's only via the pages of the Daily Mirror. Oh, it's annoying this. Because as well as interviewing him I spend five hours traipsing around in his wake and immediately after he leaves me, I discover, he heads off to his premiere and 'a marathon nine-hour all-night booze bender'.
There are 2 scenes where he's naked. We see his buttocks. He shows his naked rear in The Basketball Diaries.
But what could we expect? It's about the destructive friendship of two great 19th Century French poets who are now symbols of artistic excess, wildness and perversity: Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine. Perhaps it relies too much on only one kind of madness and ecstasy.
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Arthur Rimbaud: I have no intention of taking a job. My work is going far too well -- I can't afford to waste time earning money. TV Shows.