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Give It Up for Dead

It's probably just a matter of time until Newsweek and the major networks start hailing necrophilia as North America's hottest new lifestyle. For now, though, copulating with the dead remains largely the province of a few social visionaries like Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Bundy. Face it: Most of us have a hell of a time staying on the cutting edge.

Sandra, the pretty heroine of Canadian moviemaker Lynne Stopkewich's Kissed, is a full-fledged necrophiliac who got her start as a pre-pubescent, rubbing fallen sparrows on her face, sniffing dead chipmunks and cutting up mice with a kitchen knife. For the rest of these morbid and ludicrous ninety minutes, however, we find the grown-up Sandra down at the funeral home where she works, humping away on a seemingly endless supply of young male fatalities.

Not that she doesn't have her standards. "I don't fuck everything that's dead," she explains. Maybe not, but she rarely gets in dinner and a show before hitting the sack with a new guy.

"I've seen bodies shining like stars," our corpse-jumper rhapsodizes en route to serving as the mouthpiece for Stopkewich's endless load of pseudo-philosophical bilge. To hear this unbelievably pompous movie tell it, Sandra is busy transcending the artificial boundaries between eroticism and death and, having dropped her drawers on the embalming-room floor, romantically exploring "the wisdom, happiness and grief" of the compliant objects of her lust. Here's a girl who would have loved the Battle of Verdun. Think of all those bodies shining like stars.

As if reading the minds of the dead weren't trick enough, she also brings a young male medical student around to her way of thinking. Poor Matt. Just when he starts believing he's getting somewhere with a woman he finds "complex" and "different" (I'll say), he discovers that good old Sandy would like him a lot better if he had a little rigor mortis on his resume. Before long, he even starts reading the obituary page to figure out who she's been cheating with. Hey, doesn't the woman reek of formaldehyde?

A moviemaker with an operational funnybone would have transformed such stuff into high black comedy or some brand of wiseguy horror-sleaze. Not Ms. Stopkewich. Working from a short story (whither Canadian fiction?) by someone named Barbara Gowdy, the director remains as dead serious and terminally stiff as one of Sandra's boyfriends. This bogus avant-garder means to shock the bourgeoisie, of course, and she clearly believes that this profoundly dull film is saying something new and important about erotic adventure and the life of the mind. But nowhere does she recognize her own killing solemnity. For her, death is "time and form breaking free"; she'll probably change her tune when she gets a little taste of death at the box office.

The poor actors. For Molly Parker (Sandra) and Peter Outerbridge (Matt), this is the most thankless task imaginable, and for good measure, there's an undertaker (Jay Brazeau) who embodies every creepy cliche you've ever encountered. In all likelihood, they'll survive and make other movies. But if Stopkewich's career gets laid out on a slab for a while, not many people will kick.

--Gallo

Kissed.
Screenplay by Angus Fraser and Lynne Stopkewich. Directed by Lynne Stopkewich. With Molly Parker, Peter Outerbridge and Jay Brazeau.

 
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