By Chuck Wilson
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Amy Nicholson
By Carolina Del Busto
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Michael Atkinson
By Calum Marsh
Do you believe in magic? The reclusive Mr. Kinsky is understandably fascinated by this mysterious willowy creaturetimorous yet steelyas she tidies up his objets d'artcrammed palazzo before rushing off to her class in human anatomy. Nor can Bertolucci's camera resist feasting on Shandurai's lissome vulnerability. Much of the movie is a prolonged, spastic flirtation in which Shandurai is drawn to Mr. Kinsky's music (supposedly the very essence of European culture) but repelled when he jumps her with a gulping, snuffling proposal of marriage.
Thus, in a distended short story with a modified O. Henry twist, audience sympathies are reversed. The displaced and persecuted Shandurai appears as haughtily withholding as a fashion modeland has enough outfits to prove itwhile kinky Mr. Kinsky turns out to have a soul as big as Little Buddha. The viewer may well question the nature of Kinsky's sacrificeparticularly after hearing his ambitious attempt to fuse Edvard Grieg with Papa Wemba. Suffice to say that his alter ego Bertolucci is not giving up anythinghe's far too generous to withhold that which he's been dangling before our eyes.
Bertolucci's fantasy of New Age bwana-dom is not the first Euro art film to contemplate the spectacle of a beautiful African woman alone in the metropolisjust the most fatuous. Distributor New Line should be compelled to show it on a double bill with the Dardenne brothers' 1997 illegal-alien drama La Promesse or, better yet, Ousmene Sembene's 1965 Black Girla clear-eyed (no less New Wave) account of misplaced love and neocolonial objectification. Shandurai may speak three or four languages and be an A medical student but, dazzled by the white man's voodoo, she's a tongue-tied, barefoot child of nature at heart.
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