High-buffed, low-rack pulp, Eye of the Beholderis lovable in its own addled, literal-minded way. Its neo-noir, psych-thriller signifiersHitchcock fixation, shlumpy voyeur, femme fatale going "incognito" in fright wig and mink stoledon't just provide goofy flash via flashback but service a grief-concerned narrative in which time and space collapse into a surrealist black hole.
Said narrative is rather gimpy, aided along by Ewan McGregorwhose stoic, sorrowing British intelligence agent enjoys uncanny luck in tracking suspects who have sex and/or kill people in front of uncurtained windowsand by Ashley Judd, whose murderous vixen is considerate enough to off her first victim in a well-lit glass house. McGregor can't bust her, though, because the specter of his missing daughter, Lucyan accusatory phantom menace straight out of The Sixth Senseimplores him not to. McGregor gradually gleans Judd's sad backstoryabandoned by Dad as a child, traumatic stint in juvieand the Lucy figure fades out as he begins stalking his surrogate lost child across the country, watching from afar as Judd kills, marries, and wanders into bad straits with a bleached drifter (Jason Priestley, whooping it up). What started out as Rear Window redux becomes Vertigo with a twist of Limey. Judd's ability to make a bloodthirsty nutbag sympathetic and still maintain a spiked camp edge is thrilling; she even manages to turn a dopey astrology motif into a humanizing character quirk. When hunter and hunted finally meet in an Alaskan diner, Judd and McGregor achieve Mulder-and-Scully chemistry; two consummate pros haven't slummed so grandly in a genre piece since Pacino and De Niro went mano a mano over Formica in Heat.
Directed by Monika Treut
A First Run Features release
At Cinema Village
Opens February 4
** A consummate pro of a different order, Annie Sprinkle, is a featured player in Monika Treut's doc Gendernauts, which tracks a loose circle of transgender Bay Area denizens and friends. Treut sometimes loses focus, but her observational skills are manifest in the film's wealth of quotable quotes ("Is that your Giuliani impression?" a New York import asks a pelvic-thrusting drag king) and the sense it leaves of both the toll and the kick of self-invention. "When people ask me if I'm a boy or a girl," says one interviewee, "I say, 'Yes.' "
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