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Bride of the Wind
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by Scott Weinberg

"or, How to make 99 minutes feel like 6,000."
1 stars

Nothing's more ponderous than a poorly made costume drama. Bad comedies and horror flicks can occasionally drop something interesting onscreen, but crappy 'art flick' material stinks on a whole different level.

Sitting through Bride of the Wind, the viewer may feel as if he’s watching a literate and well-crafted affair (swanky production design and slow camera sweeps can do that to you), but the truth is that this one sloppy, drab, uninteresting, and atrociously edited film. If Bride of the Wind were a suit, it would be a papier-mâché tuxedo.

Sarah Wynter (The 6th Day) stars as Alma Mahler, a shrewish and mysteriously adored woman who slept with many, many men about a hundred years ago. It’s 1902 Vienna, and Alma has caught the eye of lauded composer/conductor Gustav Mahler.

Looking past the 25-year age difference, Alma and Gustav get married and have two young daughters, one of whom dies. Gustav slowly becomes more obsessed with his music, while Alma takes a spa trip and gets naked with famed architect Walter Gropius. Returning home to find Gustav in waning health, Alma ends her affair and tends to her husband’s needs.

When Gustav kicks the bucket, Alma kicks into prowl-mode, bedding a host of other famous artists, including the Russian painter Oskar Kokoschka and author Franz Werfel. I assume the theme is meant to be that Alma is a muse, acting as inspiration for an eclectic group of Vienna's cultural elite. Unfortunately, the character of Alma is only slightly less irritating than the infamous Ernest P. Worrell.

Sure, she’s a pretty lady, but Alma never once displays any sense of romance, sweetness, or warmth. Watching her numerous dalliances, the viewer is not left thinking "What an inspiriational woman," but "Man, what a tramp!" Wynter's performance ranges from satisfactory in some spots to downright hysterical in others, most notably when her accent veers from German to American to something sounding a lot like Dutch.

Wynter's male counterparts fare somewhat better, though Jonathan Pryce (Brazil) generally seems stuck in a dreary monotone. Vincent Perez (Queen of the Damned) offers the best work in the film, yet his wild-eyed artist Oskar appears way too late in the game to right this sunken ship.

Bride of the Wind feels like a 3-hour film that was haphazardly whittled down to 90-some minutes, yet magically - it still feels like a three-hour flick! A dreary misfire from normally reliable director Bruce Beresford (Driving Miss Daisy), Bride of the Wind strives to flesh out a woman who was probably quite fascinating in her day. But if this movie is any evidence of Alma's true persona, I'd contend that the miserable gal never deserved her own bio-pic in the first place.

Just because it looks like Masterpiece Theater, don't let that fool you.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=5363&reviewer=128
originally posted: 04/29/04 16:51:57
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USA
  08-Jun-2001

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