Review: ‘Death Defying Acts’

Love, infidelity, jealousy and regret permeate "Death Defying Acts," an often stilted but generally watchable low budget update of tales by 19th-century French author Guy de Maupassant. Quartet of stories, set to a refined but overbearing classical score, is nicely interlaced, if mostly overwritten. Pic plays like a better-than-average film school project, its purely artistic aspirations parsed by visible genitals.

Love, infidelity, jealousy and regret permeate “Death Defying Acts,” an often stilted but generally watchable low budget update of tales by 19th-century French author Guy de Maupassant. Quartet of stories, set to a refined but overbearing classical score, is nicely interlaced, if mostly overwritten. Pic plays like a better-than-average film school project, its purely artistic aspirations parsed by visible genitals. As public domain material goes, one could do far worse than Maupassant; however, writer-helmer-producer Edward G. Morris could probably have done better with a little more coin. Cable outlets should find this ensembler tempting.

Georgina loves wearing cheap costume jewelry and has a nasty cough. Elderly Paul is still kicking himself for not marrying Ursula after WWII. Feeling neglected, Zach’s wife makes him pay — quite literally — for his infidelities. And a married woman enlists help when the handsome fellow she’s been cheating with drops dead in her bed. Perfs range from adequate to convincing, with Jonathan McWade as Zach a cut above. Developing his penchant for culture-plus-prurience, helmer will shoot his next feature, per production notes, on location “in several prestigious insane asylums in New England.”

Death Defying Acts

Production

A Pristine Pictures production. (International sales: Pristine, New York.) Produced by Edward G. Norris. Co-producer, Louise Storelli. Directed, written by Edward G. Norris, based on short stories by Guy de Maupassant.

Crew

Camera (color/B&W), David Tumblety; editor, Norris; music, works by Satie, Schubert, Chopin, Bach; production designer, Reginald Chevry; costume designer, Rosemary Gioia. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (market), May 20, 2005. Running time: 76 MIN.

With

Debbie Rochon, Russell LaDue, Robert Neill, Robert Nicotra, Antonia Goddess, Jonathan McWade, Anne Marie Downey, Christopher Mako, Christine Fuchs, Shannah Bettz, Jerry Turchin, David Zhonzinsky, Donald Pace, Janet Garcia, Hillary Hickam, Andreas Neidermeir, Kevin Corstange.
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