on November 26, 1997 by Kim Williamson
In adapting Martin Sherman's 1979 stage play about Nazi persecution of gays during World War II, theatre director turned filmmaker Sean Mathias for the most part has avoided a stagy feeling in their reworking. What he and scripter Sherman have failed to provide, however, is an authentic feeling; "Bent" is a World War II movie made by people who weren't there and who don't seem to be able to imagine what it was like to be there.
The interplay of the actors between "Black Robe's" Lothaire Bluteau as the self-centered Horst and newcomer Brian Webber as the pleading-for-affection Rudy, and after Rudy's death between Bluteau and "The Rich Man's Wife's" Clive Owen as a fellow concentration camp internee who further challenges Horst's egocentrism is remarkable. Cameo turns by Ian McKellen (who originated the Max role in London) as Horst's experienced gay uncle and especially Mick Jagger as a cross-dressing chanteuse add energy to the character mix. But the filmmakers appear determined to make their point (however groundbreaking in pre-'80s climes) at the expense of a realism that would more fairly allow audience sympathy for the characters to grow. Maintaining that realism would have also better served the filmmakers themselves; it would have precluded the suffering-hero ending, which however well played is still straight out of high-school theatrics.
The studio has decided not to arbitrate the MPAA's NC-17 rating; given for a scene of sexuality, which on viewing proves short and hardly explicit, the rating might have been as mild as PG-13 except for the homosexual content. Starring Lothaire Bluteau, Clive Owen and Brian Webber. Directed by Sean Mathias. Written by Martin Sherman. Produced by Michael Solinger and Dixie Lindner. An MGM/Goldwyn release. Drama. Rated NC-17 for a strong scene of graphic sexuality. Running time: 104 min.
Tags: Starring Lothaire Bluteau, Clive Owen, Brian Webber, Directed by Sean Mathias. Written by Martin Sherman, Produced by Michael Solinger, Dixie Lindner, MGM, Drama

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