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Slaves to the Grind

Adding a sense of teledrama run amok, the main degenerate, Sean Bateman—younger brother to the yuppie killer of Ellis's American Psycho—is played by James Van Der Beek, still treading water in the show Dawson's Creek.(Fred Savage, the erstwhile pint-sized protag of The Wonder Years, has a cameo as an undergrad junkie.) Van Der Beek's long, angular face takes on a grim demonic quality as he drifts, hungry for freshman blood, from one campus bacchanal to the next. He's complemented in this daisy chain of rejection by Shannyn Sossamon, the lanky clotheshorse who plays the virginal Lauren (the most improbably stylish co-ed since Ali McGraw in Love Story), and Guess? jeans model Ian Somerhalder, as the unhappily homosexual Paul—either of whom might be auditioning for a movie version of Ellis's fashion-world epic Glamorama(reportedly Avary's next project).

The Rules of Attraction has updated the novel to the present, but it's still set in an artsy New England college (not unlike Ellis's alma mater) where sex is cheaper than free (or less than zero), orgiastic theme parties prevail, and classes seem permanently canceled. Avary mines Ellis for several set pieces—most effectively the scene in which Paul and his rambunctious partner in crime (the scene-stealing Russell Sams) take a most diva-esque drunken lunch in some Plaza-like establishment with their fabulously clueless mothers (Swoozie Kurtz and Faye Dunaway). A dormitory suicide is treated as a soigné exercise in camera placement and set decoration, although Sean's dope-dealing does provide the occasion for a bit of the mad violence that Avary has surely been itching to orchestrate all movie long.

Avary's attempt to distill a straightforward, and even poignant, storyline from the Ellis miasma—Paul pines for Sean who yearns for Lauren who once went out with Paul—has the effect of making the action seem even crazier, and not because the movie, like the novel, ends in mid-sentence. The bizarre getups and frantic self-medication, the dorm corridors filled with writhing couples and predatory dweebs, the continual haze of misinterpretation all suggest an adventure staged in a mental hospital without walls.

Hogan's Run: Dafoe's Carpy gets off on Bob Crane's fame
photo: Sony Pictures Classics
Hogan's Run: Dafoe's Carpy gets off on Bob Crane's fame

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Directed by Paul Schrader
Written by Michael Gerbosi, from the book The Murder of Bob Crane by Robert Graysmith
Sony Pictures Classics
Opens October 18

The Rules of Attraction
Written and directed by Roger Avary, from the novel by Bret Easton Ellis
Lions Gate Films

Solaris
Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky
Written by Tarkovsky and Friedrich Gorenstein, from the novel by Stanislaw Lem
Film Forum,
October 18-24

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Andrei Tarkovsky's 1972 Solaris, playing for a week at Film Forum in a new 35mm print, is the most pop film the great Russian filmmaker ever made. Adapted from the novel by Polish science-fiction writer Stanislaw Lem, it takes place mainly in a derelict, haunted space station orbiting the enigmatic planet Solaris. As earthling scientists study this world, entirely covered by a great, roiling, apparently sentient ocean, the planet probes them—most spectacularly by materializing their repressed fantasies as they sleep. The breakdowns and bizarre hallucinations thus precipitated by human contact with Solaris have thrown the program into disarray, and an astro-psychologist is sent to the space station to investigate.

At the time of its release Solaris was billed as the Soviet 2001; in fact, it's closer to Vertigo. On one hand, this is a movie shadowed by the notion of a failed scientific utopia; on the other, it is a love story about a techno Orpheus who briefly regains his simulated Eurydice. Speaking of simulations, Steven Soderbergh's remake is scheduled for release next month.

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