A costumer about a 17th century theater troupe, a playwright racing to finish his new work, and the writer's amorous adventures, "Love in the Mirror" has more than a few echoes of "Shakespeare in Love." Unfortunately it has none of the earlier pic's wit, charm or intelligence.

A costumer about a 17th century theater troupe, a playwright racing to finish his new work, and the writer’s amorous adventures, “Love in the Mirror” has more than a few echoes of “Shakespeare in Love.” Unfortunately it has none of the earlier pic’s wit, charm or intelligence. Instead, writer-director Salvatore Maira delivers large doses of pedestrian dialogue, leaden acting and a plot that meanders aimlessly for much of the running time. Pic is not likely to garner strong reviews and will almost certainly fail to make much of an impression in international waters. At best, it is a fest item.

Playwright Giovanni Andreini (Peter Stormare) runs the Company of Faithful Comics, a rag-tag troupe that is dependent on the patronage of the Duke of Mantua. The Duke finally gives in and allows them to fulfill Andreini’s lifelong dream and travel to Paris only after they’ve performed an erotic play for his personal pleasure. This play is the first of many opportunities for Maira to show all kinds of naked bodies, mostly female, writhing around on-screen.

Then Andreini begins penning his new work for Paris, a play titled “Love in the Mirror,” a work-in-progress that mirrors what’s going on in his life. He is married to the company’s star actress, Virginia (Anna Galiena), whom he casts in the lead role in the new play. But things get a bit complicated when a beautiful young woman, Lidia (Simona Cavallari), shows up out of the blue, tells him she adores his oeuvre, and, though she has no stage experience, asks to become part of the troupe. Andreini, smitten by the mysterious gal, agrees, to the dismay of his wife, who is intensely jealous of the newcomer. Before you can say Joseph Fiennes and Gwyneth Paltrow, the playwright and the amateur actress are having a steamy affair, a turn-of-events that drives Virginia ’round the bend and — literally — into the nunnery. She then decides the best way to get even is by bedding Lidia herself, which adds some homoerotic spice to the proceedings.

Maira tackles all kinds of well-worn themes, notably the relationship between art and real-life, sexual jealousy and the struggle to maintain artistic integrity, and pic has nothing new or interesting to say about any of these things. Story moves along at a haphazard pace, jumping randomly from episode to episode, and yarn is hard to follow in the early-going. Performance of lead Stormare doesn’t help matters. He is sorely lacking in charisma, mostly just looking haggard, and it’s hard to understand why these two women care about him so deeply. Galiena and Cavallari at least look gorgeous and both have the requisite aura of mysterious sex appeal for the parts. Pic looks great and score is suitably lush.

Love in the Mirror

Italian

Production

A Factory/G.M.F. production. (International sales: Factory, Rome.) Produced by Mariella Li Sacchi, Gian Marco Feletti. Directed, written by Salvatore Maira.

Crew

Camera (color), Maurizio Calvesi; editor, Alfredo Muschietti; music, Nicola Piovani; production designer, Antonello Geleng, Marina Pinzuti; costumes, Luigi Bonanno; sound, Cinecitta Servizi. Reviewed at the Toronto Intl. Film Festival (Gala), Sept. 17, 1999. Running time: 105 MIN.

With

Virginia - Anna Galiena Giovanni Andreini - Peter Stormare Lidia - Simona Cavallari Prince Bassonpierre - Jacques Sernas Also with: Maurizio Micheli, Eugenio Allegri, Quinto Parmeggiani.
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