Review: ‘Falling Bodies’

(English and French dialogue)

(English and French dialogue)

An unusual tale of romance and intrigue, “Falling Bodies” is a love story of exiles in Manhattan that touches on personal and institutional politics. An unquestionably ambitious venture, the film is for a specialized crowd and could score niche success in several key territories. But pic’s absence of marquee players and its focus on issues that hold interest for a limited audience will make its wider commercial prospects an uphill battle.

The film is slow in revealing its true nature, dangling several false clues before settling into the drama. The central character is Chase Dellal (Geno Lechner), a Manhattan medical examiner. She’s at a point where both her job and personal life are forcing her to question her options.

Several of the city’s key political-influence blocs want her to soften testimony, and her relationship with a married judge (Bob Meyer) who’s seeking state office is turning sour.

At that point Dimitri (Jean-Michel Martial), a deposed Haitian politician and former classmate, comes back into her life. His wife was murdered and he was ousted from his country, Dimitri’s travails and resolute nature allow Chase to get a better perspective on her life.

A women’s picture for the 1990s, “Falling Bodies” is a real showcase for German thesp Lechner. The script slowly strips away her icy exterior to reveal the raw emotions just below the surface. Martial is also first-rate, projecting a forceful and sexy presence. Meyer, however, is unconvincing as the third point in the triangle. The film has a nice turn from playwright Israel Horovitz as a morgue cop attuned to the woman’s conflicts.

Evocatively filmed in a gritty, realistic style by filmmaker (and former Haitian culture minister) Raoul Peck, “Falling Bodies” is an engrossing, albeit sometimes erratically told, yarn for audiences unfazed by challenging fare.

Falling Bodies

(DRAMA -- FRENCH-GERMAN-HAITIAN)

Production

A JBA production in association with Arte/Le Sept Cinema and Velvet Films. Produced by Jacques Bidou. Executive producer, Alain Peyrollaz. Directed, written by Raoul Peck.

Crew

Camera (color), Pascal Marti; editor, Jacques Comets; music, Mino Cinelu; production designer, Denis Renault; sound (Dolby), Jean-Pierre Laforce; casting, Nathanielle Esther. Reviewed at World Film Festival, Montreal (competing), Aug. 31, 1998. Running time: 100 MIN.

With

Chase Dellal ..... Geno Lechner Dimitri Sanville ..... Jean-Michel Martial Ralph Benton ..... Bob Meyer Timothy ..... Israel Horovitz Bernard ..... Dominic Gould Beatrice ..... Jeane Manson Harvey ..... Joe Sheridan Denise Mellroy ..... Susan Moncur Raymond Mellroy ..... Jerry di Giacomo
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