Friday April 18, 1997
Lynne Stopkewich's audacious "Kissed" is as hilarious as it is seemingly serious, a darkly outrageous comedy. It's probably not quite like anything you've ever seen before, although its evocation of weirdness amid a prosaic small-town setting may make you think of David Lynch's "Blue Velvet." But in contrast to Lynch's lush colors, Stopkewich goes for a drab, dun look, a depiction of tastelessness in clothes or interiors that suggests how powerful the pull of the metaphysical can be amid such dullness.
A bizarre yet romantic fable, it tells of an adolescent girl, Sandra (Natasha Morley), who is fascinated with death and given to ritual burials of dead sparrows and chipmunks in the woods near her home. In the midst of one such ceremony, Sandra has her first experience with menstruation, and as a result the sex-and-death equation is firmly cemented in her psyche.
Can it be a surprise that several years later, as a young woman, Sandra (now played by Molly Parker) is drawn to take a mortuary job, becoming a zealous student of embalming and encountering a lonely pre-med student, Matt (Peter Outerbridge)?
Matt falls in love with Sandra. But can he compete with the corpses of the best-looking, most in-shape among the dead males at the funeral parlor? Sandra is sufficiently comfortable with the pleasant-looking Matt to confess that she is in fact a voracious necrophile. Matt is, in turn, sufficiently enamored of Sandra--and sufficiently open-minded to try to take this rather remarkable piece of information in stride.
He wonders what will probably have crossed your mind and asks her if the necrophilia is a power trip for her. She says no, that "it's about crossing over," and explains that it's a kind of mystical experience in which she is able to feel the full impact of the individuality of every male corpse she has sex with.
Now that's a reach, but the amazing thing is Stopkewich makes you believe Sandra may be on the level and not entirely crazy while letting you laugh at the absurdity of the idea. Traditionally, necrophiles tend to be men rather than women, so Sandra's activities take on a feminist tinge.
"Kissed" is the kind of endeavor that demands total control, especially of tone and discretion in regard to dealing with such kinky sex. So much as a single misstep could spell disaster, but Stopkewich never slips up and gets right-up-to-the-edge portrayals from Parker and Outerbridge.
At a certain point, "Kissed" develops a quality of inevitability, and by the time it's over you may be reminded of Nagisa Oshima's notorious "In the Realm of the Senses."
Kissed, 1997. Unrated. A Goldwyn Entertainment release of a Metromedia Entertainment Group presentation of a Boneyard Film Co. production in association with British Columbia Film. Director Lynne Stopkewich. Producers Dean English & Stopkewich. Executive producer John Pozer. Screenplay by Angus Fraser & Stopkewich; based on an original story by Barbara Gowdy. Cinematographer Gregory Middleton. Editors Pozer, Peter Roeck & Stopkewich. Costumes Barb Nixon. Music Don MacDonald. Production designer Eric McNab. Art director Darryl Dennis Deegan. Set decorator Laura Morrison. Running time: 1 hour, 12 minutes. Molly Parker as Sandra Larson. Peter Outerbridge as Matt. Jay Brazeau as Mr. Wallis. Natasha Morley as Young Sandra.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times