2017/02/14

Execrable: Diabolique

Diabolique (1996)
Directed by Jeremiah S. Chechik
Written by Pierre Boileau, Thomas Narcejac, Henri-Georges Clouzot, Don Roos
Produced by Gary Barber, Chuck Binder, Jerry Offsay, Bill Todman Jr., James G. Robinson, Marvin Worth, Gary Daigler, Kirsten W. Welles
Starring Isabelle Adjani, Sharon Stone, Chazz Palminteri, Kathy Bates, Spalding Gray, Shirley Knight, Allen Garfield
Chechik's transition from direction of vacuous music videos to feature filmmaking initially produced some entertaining offerings: half of his initial theatrical quartet comprise the raunchy holiday favorite National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation and Benny & Joon, a charmingly comedic psychologic romance in the familiar mold of David and Lisa; that the Canadian native elected to reinterpret Clouzot's classic thriller (which he stupidly animadverted as "flawed and misogynist") in a feminist context may be imputed to provincial idiocy, but his failure to fulfill any facet of this purported thriller only denotes a thoroughgoing ineptitude buoyed by vanity. Stone really is a wonder, and her career a testament to the enduring pull of the casting couch: how can anyone so egregiously overact by dint of such wooden delivery? After over a decade cast in prominent roles, this woman possessed yet not a grain of histrionic instinct or technique, posturing ludicrously in her supposedly sultry role as the mathematics instructor of a boarding school engaged in one of several affairs juggled by its sadistic headmaster (Palminteri) in rivalry with his pristine, cardiacally fragile wife (Adjani). Stone's nigh beyond salvage, but Chechik's sweeping incapability's also transparent via his able players: Adjani and Palminteri are also uncharacteristically stiff, and Gray seems to be channeling John Glover's fussier personae. Resembling a distaff Joe Don Baker, only Bates prevails by plausibility as an absurdly invented detective defined primarily by a mastectomy she references within her first ten lines. Not at all subserved by its moronic impertinence, schlockily recriminative repartee, costuming and set design evoking all the shoddiest points of noir crime dramas and a sapphic subtext of the hoariest convention, sprinkled with misandrist quips for a demographic prepossessed by Lifetime's fare, bound by Roos' typically prosaic dialogue and scored by numbers to the humdrum hilt courtesy of tiresome Randy Edelman, Chechik's turkey trudges on and on and on and on to a conclusion of brutal fatuity, at every opportunity almost calculatedly shirking suspense. In Hollywood, dreck begets dreck: in a small part played with suitable stilt not too many years after penning and co-producing the unbearably cornball features Regarding Henry and Forever Young, unsightly and nepotistic golden boy J.J. Abrams appears as one in a duo of A/V dorks to foretoken his perpetuation of uninspired trash in this exact idiom. Brilliant for their adapted invention, Clouzot's best movies are unassailable, recreated exceptionally on rarest occasions only by virtuosi such as Friedkin and Chabrol. Inadvertently, unrepentantly, Chechik certified that genre journeymen are seldom able auteurs, a verity apparently unfathomable to studio executives.

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