The Blood Oranges

on October 01, 1998 by Shlomo Schwartzberg
   A risible and idiotic movie, "The Blood Oranges" is a maladroit adaptation of a novel that should probably never have seen the light of day, given the ridiculous dialogue that, one assumes, the scripters Philip Haas (who also directs) and Belinda Haas (who also produces) have taken from the book.
   Charles Dance and Sheryl Lee play a 1970s sexually liberated couple residing in a small unnamed European town. They allow each other extramarital affairs but their meeting with a pair of travelers, in town with their children, changes their traditional patterns. In flashbacks, narrated by Dance, the audience learns something bad has happened in the couple's fantasy land.
   Haas directs the material with utter seriousness, but it's difficult not to laugh at the portentous narration or vapid observations about freedom and freeing one's sexuality; their somber manner of delivery further provokes the giggles. And Dance's comments about tasting "the love lunch" (honest!) or Lee's exhortation to him, "don't be a husband but a sex singer" are so risible moviegoers can be forgiven for wondering, Did we really hear those words?
   Alas, "The Blood Oranges" is rife with that type of faux innuendo and verbiage. Haas also can't resist driving home, ad nauseam, that tragedy has befallen someone in the film by having the screen periodically fade to blood red. Okay, we get it, Philip! Not surprisingly, given the context, Dance and Lee (who irritatingly calls him Babe throughout) are terrible. So is Colin Lane as a Scottish photographer who resists Lee's blandishments. Only Laila Robins, as a heretofore happily married woman who starts questioning her marital assumptions, manages to find some meat in her role. But she's still acting in a vacuum. Considering the Haases' track record, with one fine film ("Angels & Insects") and one weak one ("The Music of Chance") to their credit, it's evident that the pair are only as good as their source material. With "The Blood Oranges," they've chosen disastrously.    Starring Charles Dance, Sheryl Lee and Laila Robins. Directed by Philip Haas. Written by Philip Haas and Belinda Haas. Produced by Belinda Haas, Tom Carouso and Hector Lopez. A Trimark release. Drama. Running time: 105 min.
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