CINEMA: THE BEST CINEMA OF 1996

1 THE ENGLISH PATIENT For so many European wanderlusters who found an Eden in the Sahara, the desert was a woman--dazzling, enveloping, with a vastness that held all their dreams. In such a place, just before World War II, the Hungarian aristocrat Count Laszlo de Almasy finds his ideal desert woman and follows her to hell. He then lives, just barely, to tell the tale to a ministering angel (Juliette Binoche) who can give him what he needs: not absolution but understanding. The lovers are Ralph Fiennes--all coiled sexiness, threat shrouded in hauteur--and Kristin Scott Thomas, who has the gift of...

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