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'The Triumph of Love'

MoviesEntertainmentBernardo BertolucciBen KingsleyMira SorvinoDeath

At a key moment in Clare Pep- loe's film of Pierre Marivaux's 1732 romantic farce "The Triumph of Love," during a scene in a 360-year-old outdoor theater when the director cuts to a brief shot of an audience looking on, it becomes clear this entire production should be taking place on stage.

Even though the sumptuous period piece has a cinematic flow and visual grace, Peploe strikes an unvarying, intensely theatrical note that creates an aura of archness and slides swiftly into tedium. The result is an exquisite yawn that provokes consideration of how accomplished Ben Kingsley, Fiona Shaw and Mira Sorvino and others are as actors--but how in this instance the characters they play so intensely never come alive.

"Triumph of Love" is a trifle as delicate and vulnerable as a souffle, and it takes an infinitely lighter touch and variety of tone than Peploe brings to it despite her long and notable career in international film production, including a professional and personal relationship with Bernardo Bertolucci and writing and directing her own films. Sorvino stars as a princess whose father had usurped the throne of the ruler who has died in prison, as has his consort. The princess, however, has caught sight of their son Agis (Jay Rodan) bathing nude in a stream and has fallen in love with him in an instant. If only she could win his heart he might then rightfully ascend the throne. There is, of course, a hitch.

From the age of 8 Agis has been raised by the rationalist philosopher Hermocrates (Kingsley) to abhor emotion and regard the princess with complete hatred. Hermocrates shares a beautiful country estate of infinite charm with his spinster scientist sister Leontine (Shaw).

What is the princess to do but dress herself and her lady-in-waiting Hermidas (Rachel Stirling) in male garb and leap over the wall onto Hermocrates' property? Fast on her feet, the princess, now calling herself Phocion, a young scholar in search of intellectual and spiritual stimulation, sets out to seduce brother and sister alike, with Hermocrates swiftly deducing she is a woman, while befriending the lonely, handsome and innocent Agis. It takes a lot of talk and complications for everything to be sorted out, and interest wanes long before the film reaches the end of its 107-minute running time.

The production values could scarcely be more elegant--glorious authentic locales, delightful costumes and a sprightly, period-sounding score by Jason Osborn that contributes vitality to the film that is otherwise lacking. "Triumph of Love," alas, is all technique and no heart.

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MPAA rating: PG-13, for some nudity and sensuality. Times guidelines: Adult themes and situations.

'The Triumph of Love'

Mira Sorvino ... The Princess

Fiona Shaw ... Leontine

Ben Kingsley ... Hermocrates

Jay Rodan ... Agis

Rachel Stirling ... Hermidas

A Paramount Classics release of an Italo-United Kingdom co-production, a presentation of Fiction and Recorded Picture Co. in association with Medusa Film and Odeon Pictures. Director Clare Peploe. Producer Bernardo Bertolucci. Executive producers Massimo Cortesi, Thomas Schuhly, Jeremy Thomas, Reinhard Klooss. Screenplay by Peploe, with Marilyn Goldin and Bertolucci; adapted from the play "Le Triomphe de l'Amour" by Pierre Marivaux and based on the version by Martin Crimp, first produced by the Almeida Theater Company. Cinematographer Fabio Cianchetti. Editor Jacopo Quadri. Music Jason Osborn. Costumes Metka Kosak. Production designer Ben Van Os. Art director Ettore Guerrieri. Set decorator Cinzia Sleiter. Running time: 1 hour, 47 minutes.

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Exclusively at the Westside Pavilion Cinemas, 10800 W. Pico Blvd., (310) 475-0202; and the Regent Showcase, 614 N. La Brea Ave., (323) 934-2944.

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