'Siesta' may be the longest death scene in recent film history. It's not a pleasant sight, but it is a stylish one.
This new film by music video director Mary Lambert is based on the novel by Patrice Chaplin, and features an all-star cast including Ellen Barkin, Isabella Rossellini, Grace Jones, Jodie Foster, Julian Sands and Gabriel Byrne. Music is by jazz trumpeter Miles Davis.
It's not that 'Siesta' isn't interesting -- in about the same way a nightmare is interesting. The images are bold and hang together in an inexplicably sensible fashion. Like a nightmare, it's the surreal feeling of the movie that stays with you. Unfortunately it is also like a nightmare in that there's little of the movie you care to remember.
Claire, played by Barkin, is an American daredevil who runs away for just one last meeting with a long-lost love in Spain, played by Gabriel Byrne. But Claire is also looking for approval for the choice she made -- to chase fame and money as a female Evil Knievel instead of nurturing her talent, in obscurity, as an acrobat.
Claire finds things have changed for her former lover/teacher. He's married for one thing. He despises her daredevil antics for another. Nevertheless, they meet for a night of passion, Claire risking a big-money promotion and her lover, Augustine, risking his marriage.
It turns out it's a bad risk for both of them.
That's the plot in a nutshell. But there are still about 90 minutes of movie, and most of it is taken up with the criss-crossing between Claire's purgatory -- she doesn't quite seem in either heaven or hell - and her last few days on earth.
If Claire's life was a dare, her death is filled with even more inglorious challenges from a string of odd fellows. But the odder the situation and character -- Foster gives an incredible turn as a spoiled-brat Englishwoman -- the tighter the direction and mood. Each shot is painstakingly framed for its maximum eeriness; the technique is flawless.
But in the end, there isn't much substance in 'Siesta.' Claire seems to be the only one who doesn't get what's going on either in life or death. It's hard to be sympathetic to someone so obviously self-centered, and stupid to boot.
The rest of the characters are all figures in Claire's purgatory, so it's tough to judge them. They're supposed to be weird. Augustine gets to play things straight, but he seems more window-dressing than heroic. If he hates Claire's egotistical ambition so much, how come he's so drawn to her. The answer seems to be a physical attraction too strong to deny.
Sadly, that's hardly enough of a plot to keep a movie together. But it's plenty of ammunition to fuel a surreal and beautiful -- and painfully long -- feature-length video.
There isn't really much of anything of substance keeping 'Siesta' together. What there is plenty of is mood, style and great music.
This movie is rated R. Film contains nudity, violence and explicit sex.