Being at Home with Claude (1992)

An opening monochrome montage, cut like a really flashy pop promo, one-ups the first scene of Basic Instinct. As a couple of Canadian guys have incredible sex on the floor of a student apartment, a carving knife falls off the table and, at the moment of climax, the uppermost guy slashes his lover's throat. The gout of blood provides the first colour and the last excitement in this intense but ponderous psycho-drama.

Adapted from a highly-regarded play, with an English title but French dialogue, this is a very artificial stage piece transferred to the cinema with the minimum of visualisation, leaving you with a movie in which one character never stops talking as another listens to him, almost entirely confined to one set. After the slashing, gay hustler Roy Dupuis is willing to confess but not to give further details of the crime. In the book-lined study of a never-seen judge, a pockmarked tough-tender cop (Jacques Godin) conducts a probing interrogation.

The heart of the film is in its very, very talky script and a couple of powerful performances, but as mysteries are solved, interest declines. By the end, the murder motive has been explained but no one is any the wiser, and it's hard to tell whether the movie goes along with Dupuis's daffy-sounding reasoning (like the suicide in The Hairdresser's Husband, only less credible) for carving up the other guy. It's hard not to respect something so extreme in its stylisation, emotional intensity and naked romanticism. But it's also hard to cosy up to a film which combines such posiness with hidebound theatre conventions. Beautifully-crafted but resistible.
KIM NEWMAN

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