Original Sin is a spongy Cuban burlesque heavy on the cheese but light on historical perspective, served by director Michael Cristofer with all the right elements for campy success: whorehouses full of cackling sluts, lascivious bisexuals, mysterious nooks begging to be opened and native children running gleefully through dress fittings. Where Mikheil Kalatozishvili savored Cuba’s beauty with his seminal film poem I Am Cuba, culture takes second stage in Cristofer’s thinly-guised, cornball love session to Angelina Jolie’s luscious lips. Julia (Jolie) comes to Cuba to marry rich coffee merchant Luis (Antonio Banderas). Their taboo romance is built on ham-handed declarations of love and distrust. Cristofer, who previously directed Jolie in the melodramatic Gia, takes his material a tad too seriously, seemingly unaware of the ludicrousness of his jazz-infested score and fondness for post-coital contortions. Cristofer was admittedly inspired by the visual stylings of Max Ophüls though Original Sin is far from the heartbreaking romance of Ophuls’s masterpiece A Letter from an Unknown Woman. Nonetheless, Original Sin‘s theater scene is executed with a winking and hysterical appreciation for the sin of performance. If not worthy of Lola Montès, the influence is clearly there. Some of the drama for course: canaries die, blood is shed, fingers are sucked and Banderas’s buttocks are proudly displayed. All the while, Luis and Julia deal with the convolutions of foul play and mistaken identity. None of it makes sense but who cares when you have a hot-and-bothered Jolie all-too-ready to rub up against coffee beans for one’s viewing pleasure? In between the film’s humdingers are endless dry spells, so, as far as “so-bad-it’s-good” confections go, Original Sin is low on the totem pole, never sustaining that level of consistent ridiculousness to put it on equal ground with classics like Showgirls. Nonetheless, Cristofer’s Fabio-less trifle and Paul Verhoeven’s paean to the grieving Vegas hooker share one especially-expressive line of dialogue between them, that, more or less, shows where its directors’ sentiments lie: “You’re a whore!”
- Michael Cristofer
- Michael Cristofer
- Angelina Jolie, Antonio Banderas, Thomas Jane, Jack Thompson, Gregory Itzin, Allison Mackie, Joan Pringle, Cordelia Richards
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