Screenplay, David Ambrose. Camera (color), Luciano Tovoli; editor, Claudio Cutri; music, Luis Bacalov; production designer, Franco Velchi. Reviewed at World Film Festival, Montreal (World Cinema), Sept. 1, 1999. (Also in Palm Springs Film Festival.) Original title: Commedia. (English and Italian dialogue.) Running time: 98 MIN.
With: Jonathan Pryce, Susan Lynch, Claudia Gerini, Enrico Silvestrio, Alessandra Aciai, Brian Prothroe.
A pretentious reality/illusion game in which characters confuse role-playing with their real identities, the primarily English-language Italo mystery “Deceit” can’t manage to make its own drama come to life. The turgid, indifferently mounted exercise is best suited to Eurotube slots.
Attractive actress Michela (Claudia Gerini) receives a mysterious note offering money if she’ll “act out a drama in real life”; when she doesn’t follow through, her English roommate, Corinna (Susan Lynch), secretly begins meeting an older man (Jonathan Pryce) for assignations around Rome, playing the part of a married woman his alleged art-forgery expert is trying to seduce. As Corinna grows infatuated with her curious older patron, she and a jealous b.f. (Enrico Silvestrio) try to suss out his true motives, leading to a rotely tragic resolution. The pic affects an arty tenor, with story-paralleling excerpts glimpsed from “Othello” and “Un ballo in maschera,” but helmer Claudia Florio’s pedestrian handling achieves scant atmosphere or suspense. Pryce lends a dignified presence; Lynch, however, makes an awkward and unappealing heroine. Production values are modest, tech work OK.