The situation, straight from the I.B. Singer novel, is instantaneously interesting: that of Holocaust survivors in New York after the war, specifically that of one who is leading a double life, with a subliterate new wife and a cultured mistress on the side, and then suddenly a triple life when his third wife, reported killed during the war, turns up alive. And, as if this were not enough, the situation has been poetically enriched: these people, we are given to understand, are the walking dead. The hero, who admits to no address or phone number, is a professional "ghost" writer. (You see?) His first wife, plainly enough, has "risen from the dead." (But: "I'm not the same. I'm dead.") The mistress, soon to become the hero's third simultaneous wife, is drawn as powerfully toward death as toward her lover, and eventually initiates a suicide pact. But the imagery of death, like much else in the movie, doesn't really "play"; it just sits there and "reads." Which is to say, much of the thing plays like a book: literary, talky, obdurately verbal, with a liberal sprinkling of well-turned quotables ("If men had their way, every woman would lie down a prostitute and get up a virgin"). And somehow the individual scenes, one at a time, never seem as interesting as the original situation they grow out of, never as rich as their poetic overlay. The bare fact of three women in one man's life is so exclusively the focus of attention that we never get to see what else is in the relationships: the movie is an exercise more in plane geometry than in interpersonal chemistry. With Ron Silver, Lena Olin, Margaret Sophie Stein, and Anjelica Huston; directed by Paul Mazursky. (1989) — Duncan Shepherd
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