Petered Out

Still, even though I hated the film as I sat through it, upon reflection I have to admit it's more a judgment call than most. You could make the case that it's a wicked comedy of erotic obsession, Polanski's best work since Chinatown, as Film Comment has done. Or you could write it off as two hours and twenty minutes of glossy, ambitious Eurotrash smut, as I am inclined to do. Either way, it's a film that only Roman Polanski could have made.

Unlike Bitter Moon, Pedro Almod centsvar's Kika was clearly envisioned as a comedy. Almod centsvar is one of the few directors in the world today capable of matching Polanski kink for kink, and his latest film does just that. It's much funnier, and unencumbered by the pretentious pseudointellectual baggage. But it is every bit as controversial.

The centerpiece is an extended rape sequence played for laughs. Now, I do not find anything funny about the subject of rape. Nor, I daresay, would the majority of the Miami Film Festival audience who viewed the film with me in February. Yet the scene brought down the house with the kind of unrestrained belly laughs that go on so long they drown out the next two or three punch lines in succession. It is a sign of Almod centsvar's genius that he could take a subject as loaded as rape and turn it into a side-splitter. This is one of the filmmaker's trademarks -- juxtaposing slapstick and melodrama to maximum effect.

But even Almod centsvar can't do much with Peter Coyote, who sleepwalks through his role of a freeloading serial killer with all the personality of a railroad tie. Almod centsvar was smarter than Polanski, however A he limits Coyote's time on-screen so that the sullen American is just one mismatched part of an otherwise stellar ensemble that includes Veronica Forque as the unsinkably optimistic makeup artist of the title, Alex Casanovas as Kika's boyfriend Ram centsn, an uncommunicative visual artist specializing in women's lingerie, Victoria Abril as a TV tabloid variety show host with a very theatrical scar, and Almod centsvar favorite Rossy de Palma as Kika's gay maid Juana.

The story revolves around Kika's relationship with Ram centsn. Once again, however, Almod centsvar juggles nearly as many subplots as characters. The director is prepossessed with films featuring an actress in crisis, and Kika is no exception. All the usual villains take their turns being lacerated by Almod centsvar's blade; self-appointed intellectuals, politicians, and shameless TV personalities all get theirs. And even the sympathetic characters have their kinks. Haunted by his mother's death, which he thinks was a suicide, Ram centsn maintains a shrine to her memory. Kika and Ram centsn's sex life is less than stellar, so Kika occasionally turns to Ram centsn's brother (Coyote) to fill her needs. Juana is a mustachioed lesbian with the hots for Kika. A pragmatist by nature, Juana now and then sleeps with her perpetually horny brother Pablo to keep him from exploding because of testosterone buildup. Old Pablo is quite a charmer -- a compulsive career criminal and former porno movie star whose IQ is exceeded only by the length of his penis.

Much as John Waters's Serial Mom marks a welcome return to form, so too does Kika find Almod centsvar back at top of his game. Not that Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! and High Heels were bad films, but they were disappointments for recent converts who had come to expect the madcap humor and imaginative irreverence of Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. Kika is as crazed, as funny, as schizo, as serious, and as accomplished as anything the director has done. Unlike Polanski, he beat the Coyote factor.

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