Crimes of Passion

Crimes of Passion

 

 

Crimes of Passion

1984. Directed by Ken Russell.  

Resurrected from the tombs with the always stunning Arrow Video treatment, Crimes of Passion was Russell's second American film and a neon injected explosion of sexual transgressions and mental illness commentary.

China Blue is an elusive prostitute whose day job is in the fashion world.  Her employer hires a private detective to follow her because he fears she is sharing patterns with the competition.  This leads the detective to discover her China Blue persona and become intimately involved with her.  What follows is a Giallo homage without a warning label and some of the most intense sex scenes ever committed to celluloid. 

Kathleen Turner gives the most controversial performance of her career as Joanna/China Blue.  Her commitment to this role is so unique and viscerally charged that you often forget you're watching the same actress who starred in Romancing the Stone in the same year.  Turner is simply amazing as the tortured hooker with a bleeding heart of fool's gold.  Anthony Perkins brings his A game, summoning the insanity of previous performances and using them to bring his street preacher gone mad to life.   

Barry Sandler's script is sinfully delicious, packed with memorable lines and unforgettable erotic sequences, but it's Russell's influence that makes this film pop.  This is a movie that would never, ever get made today.  It's sexually explicit, experimental, and above all thought provoking.  Each skin on skin exchange is an act unto itself, evoking a sense of vaudeville grandeur while simultaneously pushing the viewer's limits to excess, Russell's trademark.  

Ruth Myers and Christy Newquist's costume and makeup design are leaps and bounds above what they should be for a film of this caliber.  China Blue is presented as an ever changing siren, adrift in a sea of guilt and sweat.  Dick Bush's renegade cinematography frames her erotic dysfunction in such a manner that you often mistake the salaciousness on display for high theater.  The use of neon lighting and simulated sex behind translucent curtains only heightens the tension and arousal in this naughty departure.  

Available now in Blu Ray via an amazing restoration by Arrow Video, Crimes of Passion is a film like no other.   There are so many elements at work in Russell's titillating playground of the flesh, that the film stumbles so much in the final act, it almost fails to deliver.  Almost.  In the end, Crimes of Passion is the quintessential American cult film that deserves not only your viewing attention, but a passionate and thorough discussion of it's many forbidden visual fruits and thought provoking themes.  

Highly recommended for the adventurous viewer.    

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