Female Perversions 1.0 stars

The premise, or thesis, taken from a work of nonfiction by Dr. Louise J. Kaplan and spelled out on screen in a printed preamble, asserts that conformance to the "normal" is the biggest perversion of all. Or something like that. First-time filmmaker Susan Streitfeld has attempted, with some degree of artistic perversion, to hammer this into a fictional framework, not unlike Woody Allen with Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Sex, except not humorous. (The vignette, however, of a dressed-for-success attorney watching herself on television and noticing the lipstick on her teeth is lifted straight from Tracey Ullman's HBO comedy series, Tracey Takes On....) So maybe more like George Cukor with The Chapman Report, except more clinical, cold, dry, muted, untextured. And unlike either one, it follows a single continuous storyline, centered on a prosecuting attorney (with the elemental name of Eve) awaiting word on her anticipated appointment to the California Court of Appeals. Around her are a bearish boyfriend, a distant father, a lesbian neighbor, a kleptomaniac sister, and the sister's assorted neighbors: a marriage-minded single mom, a self-mutilating pubescent daughter, an ecdysiast auntie. Not to leave out the stray bogeyman or ogress from fantasies and nightmares. The urge to cover vast territories and to open cans of worms, greater by far than the urge to characterize and dramatize, has not made for a very coherent or engaging protagonist (Orlando's Tilda Swinton, whose portrayal might be described as cracked alabaster). An abundance of clothes, cosmetics, interior decoration, and exposed flesh keeps the movie forever within hollering distance of the provocative. Amy Madigan, Karen Sillas, Clancy Brown, Frances Fisher. 1997.

Duncan Shepherd

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