Cinema: Besieged

Directed by Bernardo Bertolucci

Shandurai (Thandie Newton) is an African political refugee working as a housekeeper for Mr. Kinsky (David Thewlis) while studying in Rome. He plays the piano and silently lusts after her. This is understandable; she is heartbreakingly beautiful. Bertolucci has made an essentially silent film about this obsession, and that is understandable too. But there's also a portentousness in the silence that's distancing and annoying, especially since it leads to a too perfectly ironic ending that O. Henry might have hesitated over. The film is visually murky as well, lacking the sumptuousness we associate with this director.

--By Richard Schickel

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