"Dennehy fans, put down that 'First Blood' disc and watch this."
Brian Dennehy finally got a shot at art-house respect in this stubbornly interiorized drama.Dennehy is Stourley Kracklite, an American architect in Rome to supervise an exhibition of the classical architect he idolizes. When he learns that his idol had stomach ailments much like his own, he becomes convinced that his straying younger wife (Chloe Webb) is poisoning him. Stomachs become a fixation for him (and for us — after a while our eyes automatically travel to people’s tummies), and he gets sicker and more paranoid as his wife, unborn child, and career slip away from him.
Even in the shallowest roles, Dennehy is a burly force of nature; here, in a showboat artist role Hemingway could have written, Dennehy — with his white beard and Homeric shoulders — is about the only actor who could be posed between classical Roman statues (as cinematographer Sacha Vierny often frames him) without looking like a nerd. We knew he was physically powerful, but in this movie Dennehy achieves Brando-esque emotional power.The film itself is another Peter Greenaway special, full of art-major allusions, but that great bull Dennehy takes the snob curse off it. Greenaway wisely puts him in almost every frame — the better, perhaps, to appreciate him as art.