Desert Hearts


Loss is a lonely hunter. Like Charlotte Rampling’s self-deceiving widow in François Ozon’s Under the Sand, Margherita Buy’s Antonia, the mid-life babe of Ferzan Ozpetek’s His Secret Life (Fate Ignoranti) is jolted out of her warmly routinized marriage by the sudden death of her husband. But unlike Rampling’s Marie, whose circumstances allow her to live in denial of loss, Antonia must confront in short order the fact that not only is her Massimo gone, but that she is not the only intimate he’s left behind—a favorite painting’s inscription reveals a longtime lover, one pseudonymous “Ignorant Fairy.”

When, in a state of shell-shocked patrician grace, Antonia resolutely returns the painting, she finds that Massimo’s innamorato is actually a man. In the course of the mourners’ initial tango, the equally bereaved Michele (Stefano Accorsi) introduces Antonia to her late husband’s roiling sub-rosa sensual universe, which has at its epicenter a bustling flat full of working-class misfits who live and love as a makeshift family.

At points, Ozpetek’s tale of socio-sexual epiphany suffers from the same walk-on-the-wild-side primitivism of his erotically questing 1997 debut, Steam: The Turkish Bath. But more important than the tame Almodóvarian omnisexuality and bittersweet lessons in day-seizing we learn from stock marginalized types—the transsexual, the hard-luck dame, the manic-panic’d mother figure, and Michele’s seeming charge, an AIDS-riven shut-in—is the sense of the post-traumatic duo as stringless kites. It’s this memory-as-identity obviation that gives Secret Life its intermittent unease, reaffirming that long-held illusions are indeed reality, and that erasing them recasts the self. And it’s this existential gerrymandering that’s most compelling. In this sense, Michele and Antonia hold the keys to each other’s recovery.

The would-be cult classic Don’t Ask Don’t Tell may be a “refried film,” but that’s no excuse for stale jokes. This weak overdub of the 1954 shlocker Killers From Space re-imagines the flick as involving a government plot to prevent gay aliens from converting the world. Laboring under the misconception that simply mentioning anything contemporary (John Ashcroft or Bob Jones University) in the context of a recut relic is inexhaustibly hilarious, our well-intentioned crew never gets within light-years of MST3K’s wit. What welcome lefty sass there is gets swept up in a deluge of gynophobic slag that could win Eminem to the fold.

There should be an MTV Movie Award for best sideways-nine blasting. Besides doing some of that and throwing one sqeaky tantrum, hip-hop sing-talker Nelly hardly shows up in Snipes (IFG, opens September 20). And his scenes are the only ones worth watching. An impostor MC, Nel’s Prolifik has been living huge off his dead cousin’s demos. When he can’t bring more illmatica, he plots with pals to fake his own kidnap-murder and collect ransom on his unfinished tapes. Teen “sniper” (street-team poster slinger) Triggs (Sam Jones III) knows too much and must be stopped. But, of course, he’s not. And aside from a great film-buff in-joke when Triggs uses his camera’s digital zoom to ID the enemy (a democratizing moment in the Blowup continuum), Snipes is a cockeyed shot all the way.