Waking the Dead

Directed by Keith Gordon

Sarah's aura is vital to this struggle, and Connelly delivers the immense passion of a young woman who wants to give her all to her man but knows she simply cannot; she has another missionary position to fulfill. The role affords an intriguing opportunity to assess the feminine zeitgeist of three decades. The voice of Joni Mitchell, occasionally catty but undeniably intelligent and compassionate, complements the rich hues of the '70s. The '80s are evoked here with a hard, loveless bleakness (one imagines early Pat Benatar songs). So what would have happened had this tale been set in the present day? Would the ruthless, retarded persona of a Courtney Love have influenced Sarah? Would Fielding, solid identity or otherwise, have been so deeply touched in the first place? It seems worthy of consideration.

Director Gordon, whose other films include The Chocolate War, A Midnight Clear and Mother Night, offers up much to meditate on here, and it's no surprise, with its theme of spiritual fusion à la the prince in Anna and the King), that Waking the Dead was hatched by Jodie Foster's Egg Pictures. Waking the Dead stands well on its own, without defense, but if the naked emotions here seem rote, or the jaded forget the glow of love (and the agony of its loss), these lines from Sixth Dynasty Chinese poet Shen Yüeh may spark the memory: "I think of when she comes -- shining, shining, up the garden stairs, impatient, impatient to end our parting. Tireless, tireless, we talk of love, gaze at each other but never get our fill, look at one another till hunger is forgotten." Ever been there?

Opens March 24.

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