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Dead Ringers

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With this, David Cronenberg comes very near to "straight" psychological drama, and -- excepting only one nightmare scene, from which the dreamer awakens before it becomes too disgusting -- gets quite far from his icky-gooey horror mode. And any horror aficionado who honors the name of Val Lewton (I Walked with a Zombie, Curse of the Cat People, etc.) must be well gratified at the spectacle of a horrormeister unafraid of overestimating his audience's intelligence. Still and all, there would seem to be something self-defeating, like shoveling sand into the ocean, about Cronenberg getting ever more serious, and more deliberate, and more "realistic," in his approach to subjects that show no precipitous decline in silliness. The situation here, fractionally less silly than that in his previous effort, The Fly, concerns identical-twin gynecologists (Jeremy Irons and Jeremy Irons) who, despite markedly different personalities, share the same Toronto office and apartment, keep their hair at the same length and combed in the same style, so that they may trade places from time to time, and even trade current sex partners, with nobody being the wiser. One such sex partner (Genevieve Bujold), a childless TV actress with the fascinating anatomical feature of three cervixes ("a trifurcate," we learn to call her), begins to mean a great deal more to one of the twins than to the other, and the seeds of dissolution are sown. (It comes as a relief, more than just comic, when the onset of madness opens a kind of blowhole for all the pent-up silliness: e.g., the design and manufacture of special gynecological tools for use on "mutant women" -- better suited for a chamber of torture.) Jeremy Irons seems thoroughly committed to his part, or parts. The dialogue is literate and occasionally even witty. And the visual side of things, from set design to color co-ordination to composition, is icily elegant. (1988) — Duncan Shepherd

Rated R

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