The Comfort of Strangers


Drama / Thriller


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July 07, 2015 at 10:44 PM



Helen Mirren as Caroline
Rupert Everett as Colin
720p 1080p
810.68 MB
23.976 fps
1hr 47 min
P/S 1 / 3
1.64 GB
23.976 fps
1hr 47 min
P/S 0 / 7

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by canadude 9 / 10

Oxymoron of the Decade

Spoiler Alert Watching the beginning of "The Comfort of Strangers" I become aware of three things: the camera oozing through a grand Venetian apartment clearly lost in time, Angelo Badalamenti's haunting score teasing with classical elegance only to cut to a darker tone and Christopher Walken's voice. The voice is calm, hypnotic and (much like Badalamenti's score) carries an uneasy note - or rather a note that makes one feel uneasy. It's a voice that is only part of one of Christopher Walken's greatest performances, in a film which he, not surprisingly, carries.

I do not, however, wish to be caught suggesting that without Walken "The Comfort of Strangers" would be a bad film. It wouldn't (most likely, but that's speculation) - it's got more than Walken going for it. Natasha Richardson and Rupert Everett play a young British couple well (not that it is hard to do, I suppose, at least until) when their darker side emerges. The stimulation and prodding of this darkness from its hole and home of politeness and comfort occurs not only as a consequence of the couple's encounter with Walken, but also by his wife, played by Helen Mirren, who I love in this role.

"The Comfort of Strangers" is not a European-like art film, or subtle drama as much as it is a horror, or rather, horror plain and simple. Its story is relatively simple: a young British couple on vacation contemplate their relationship and the possibility of marriage when they encounter a Venetian resident (Walken) who seduces them with disturbing tales of his past, while terrifying them as well.

Shortly into the film, however, it turns out that Walken's encounter with Richardson and Everett's characters wasn't so chance after all. This should hardly be considered surprising since the film is directed by Paul Schrader ("Taxi Driver," "Last Temptation of Christ") and adapted by Harold Pinter ("The Go-Between," "The Servant"). Both writer and director obsess over psychology and the darker side of humanity. Well, in "The Comfort of Strangers" this obsession also reveals itself.

The dialogues in the film are classic Pinter - innocuous at first sight, matter-of-fact, meaningless on the surface, they add up to much more than they do in isolation. The story operates on subtext and nuance. It invites interpretations like many of Pinter's plays (most notably "The Caretaker), primarily social and psychological. And the film has countless - its ending may be considered sporadic, extreme, or, contrarily, pertinent and perfect.

I loved the ending and the film feeling that it works with the horror of the whole. My interpretation of "The Comfort of Strangers" puts aside psychology (I prefer to leave psychology ambiguous - darker things lurk in corners of the unknown than the explained). "The Comfort of Strangers" is, to some degree, an allegory, much like Losey's "The Servant" about two generations clashing with each other. More specifically, it's about old and new upper-class clashing. Walken is haunted by his father, a man of an older order, a patriarch with full knowledge of the value of his power, both psychological and physical, the terrorist of the family, an authoritarian. A symbol of virility. His gift to Walken's Robert is made clear through the relationship with Robert's wife - it's a violent, sexual relationship, the woman is a victim who comes to peace with her fate. It's an old-fashioned relationship, a relationship that terrifies Richardson and Everett.

They are a modern couple by modern standards - Richardson's Mary has children from a previous marriage and lives with Everett's Colin outside of wedlock. They are, to some extent, free. Robert criticizes them for this several times implicitly - he states that he respects Colin as an Englishman, but subtly berates him for living with a divorced woman. And he berates Colin not so subtly when Colin criticizes Robert's collection of his father's things.

Colin doesn't tell Mary that Robert hit him hard in the stomach. In fact, their relationship is jostled by their encounters with the strange Venetian couple, sexually energized - Mary, who initially wants Colin to propose to her, feels more powerful, free and desirous of that freedom she tastes. When Colin, shrinking (after the violent encounter with Robert), proposes to her finally, she brushes it off with a smile - she feels free and she likes it. Colin, however, is threatened by it. He doesn't fight back against Robert - he takes it and is quiet about it. He even allows Robert to call him a "poof, or how you say, a fruit?" during dinner.

The strong patriarchy of the past, manifested by Walken's Robert, isn't as strong as it appears at first. It has no future - the sickness of it is apparent to any viewer, especially as revealed by the Mirren character. It's a diseased relationship, yet it attracts Mary and Colin. Their relationship is also doomed, however - it appears to have no future, because it cannot define itself. There is no dominant figure, no person to give a direction to it (marriage?) - and when a direction presents itself, neither of the partners appears very committed to it. It's far from normal either - otherwise there would have only been one encounter with the Venetian couple. But interest and curiosity are far too strong for the encounters to stop.

So, when I watch the final moment of the film - very reminiscent of its first - I think not only of Walken's brilliance, but now of the newly-bestowed meaning to his monologue. Whenever Robert is questioned by a character in the film he offers a tale of childhood, of the past, about his father, who bestowed him with psychology, values and an understanding of the world. The understanding, of course, is impractical and must, inevitably, cause Robert a great deal of pain - every time he is forced to face the present, he has to revert to a past which he understands (and only because it made an incredibly psychological impression on him and his growth, development), but makes sense to no one else. He invokes the spirit of his dead father. And the spirit does not return the call because it is itself dead and gone - along with Robert, who is not in our world, but a world past. He is a ghost and he is truly horrifying, especially when he tries to materialize.

Reviewed by Scoopy 8 / 10

The "menace" all-star team

Let's think how to put together the all-star team of menace.

We'd have Paul Shrader direct, and he'd never shoot a centered, straight-on angle. The movie would be filled with nearly empty frames, where the actors can be seen only far off to the side, and the scenes would begin with tracking shots through an alley to the characters, as if from a stalker's P.O.V. Doors and windows would open and close near our protagonists, manipulated by unseen hands, for unspoken reasons.

We'd have Harold Pinter write the screenplay, and every line would be pregnant with vague menace. The character's actions would be filled with unexplainable and unexplained malice. People would repeat with gravitas lines that don't seem important. People would tell awful stories about their youth and their excessively stern parents.

We'd locate it in Venice at night, where every corner seems to turn into a deserted and foggy dead end, every street is a waterfront, and there are as many ghosts and echoes as living people.

We'd star Christopher Walken.

Sorry, guys, it's already been done. This is a spooky, creepy movie, well presented by the all-star team. I really found only one flaw. The menace was not left unspoken and threatening. The movie ends with people doing explicit and unspeakably awful things for no reason.

It's one strange movie. Great use of Venice as the backdrop for the story. It is a masterpiece in its own Euro-noir genre. I liked it a lot, but don't expect a typical cinema experience, or a happy ending.

Reviewed by iago-6 ([email protected]) 7 / 10


When does a simple vacation become an erotic odyssey? That is the question the trailer for this film asks. You can just see some copywriter somewhere coming up with that one. Nevertheless, it is a question I have often asked myself. I can't tell you how many times I thought I was on a simple vacation, and wouldn't you know, it turned out to be an erotic odyssey. But more often than not, there I am, thinking I'm on an erotic odyssey, and it turns out to be just a simple vacation. You know, you really never can tell.

Okay, I'll stop ragging on the copywriting in the trailer now. How for the movie itself? It's a very good, unsettling tale of perverted sexuality and latent homoeroticism that unfolds at a leisurely pace in Venice. This movie is a sort of bookend movie to Don't Look Now, so much so that I strongly suspect that the Ian McEwan novel was at least partially inspired by the Daphne DuMaurier novel (as well as, it must be acknowledged, Death in Venice). They both include a couple with a shaky relationship in Venice, several scenes of getting lost in the winding streets, the intrusion of a mysterious and disruptive stranger, and similarly surprising endings.

Rupert Everett plays Colin, in a strained relationship with Natasha Richardson's Mary. They are on vacation in Venice, where they had vacationed two years previously, in the hopes of sorting out whether or not they want to continue with their relationship. Mary has two kids from a prior marriage that Colin does not seem particularly fond of, and he seems to regard her as insipid and whiny-which she pretty much is. When she remarks that she thought some paintings they saw were incredible, he dismissively remarks: "That's what you thought last time." Can this union be saved? Add to this a lopsided sexual tension throughout. They are constantly talking about how beautiful Colin is, and whether he is more beautiful than Mary. They discuss whether the people they see are looking at Mary or Colin. The film itself fetishizes Colin, offering long, loving shots of him nude or shirtless, which, as it turns out, serves the story. While Colin is in no way portrayed as gay, it is obvious that he can't summon up any interest in Mary, and certainly doesn't seem to care much for her kids. But there is a homoerotic tone just in the way the camera lingers over him and the way his beauty is a recurring topic of interest.

The couple get lost late one night, and run into Christopher Walken as Robert, who invites them to a bar that it turns out he owns. The bar seems to be populated entirely by men who seem pretty gay to me, although later two shots are inserted that show women. Later Robert tells two other guys who are interested in Colin that Colin is his lover. At the bar Robert gets them drunk and tells them a long and disturbing story about his imperious and dominating father. They get the creeps from him, but can't avoid seeing him again the next day, and being invited to his house, where they meet his wife Caroline, played by Helen Mirren.

Colin and Mary sleep, and wake to find that their clothes have been taken. Caroline tells them, and makes Mary repeat to Colin because it's so important, that she came into their room and watched them for a half hour while they slept. She waxes on and on about Colin's beauty. The whole thing is getting creepy fast, and gets more so when Robert suddenly punches Colin in the stomach after he indirectly insults Robert for being obsessed with his father.

It continues to get creepier and creepier, and I wouldn't dare spoil the surprising ending for you, but suffice to say that the film's point of view isn't the only one with a homoerotic obsession with Colin and his beauty.

The movie opens with a wonderful credits sequence as the camera languidly floats through Robert and Caroline's apartment to the languid strains of one of Angelo Badalamenti's most beautiful scores. I saw this movie when it came out 15 years ago, and one of the things I never forgot is this credits sequence and the wonderful score. As usual for a Paul Schrader film, the whole thing moves a bit too slowly for my taste, but at least there's a story here to tell, and the screenplay by Harold Pinter does a great job of capturing the disjointed nature of real conversation.

It's hard to tell much more of the story without talking about the ending, a problem the trailer has, which it solves by pretty much showing the entire story from beginning to end, while delivering idiotic commentary such as the aforementioned question regarding simple vacations vs. erotic odysseys. Nevertheless, it's a fascinating, disturbing film with great performances from Walken and Mirren, and if you liked Don't Look Now, you should definitely look into it.

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