- The Washington Times - Friday, November 29, 2002

Two conspicuous remakes, "Treasure Planet" and "Solaris," are supplemented this weekend by a fringe remake, "Love in the Time of Money," an independent feature shot on digital video by a novice writer-director, Peter Mattei.
The filmmaker's association with the Yale School of Drama, as both a student and instructor, might be implied from his source material, the Arthur Schnitzler play "Reigen," circa 1896, better known as "La Ronde," the title of Max Ophuls' famous movie adaptation of 1950.
The Ophuls version, the second-best of his French classics, after "The Earrings of Madame de," recruited Simone Signoret, Simone Simon, Danielle Darrieux, Odette Joyeux and Isa Miranda as five women encountered in a daisy chain of erotic interludes contrived to come full circle when Miss Signoret's character, a principal in the opening episode, reappears in the concluding episode.
Roger Vadim seemed a natural for an update of 1964 titled "Circle of Love," but he squandered the savory quintet of Jane Fonda, Catherine Spaak, Anna Karina, Marie Dubois and Francoise Dorleac.
An extremely obscure update of 1992 was titled "Chain of Desire." It seems to be one of the castaway Linda Fiorentino movies. David Hare's play "The Blue Room"also harked back to "La Ronde" and rejuvenated the prurient potential in the material by displaying Nicole Kidman in the nude. Now it remains to be seen whether "Chain of Desire" will be rivaled in its obscurity by "Love in the Time of Money," which might make more sense as the pilot for an HBO series about casual and disillusioning sex between strangers in the city.
The advantage of hitching one's fortunes to Schnitzler's cynical prototype is that it may reconcile the semiclassic with the semipornographic. The merry-go-round begins, as usual, with the encounter of a prostitute, played by Vera Farmiga, and a client, Domenick Lombardozzi. He picks her up on a New Jersey street corner and uses the hood of his car as an impromptu divan. The mood also is somewhat chilled by a shivery climate. Anyway, his ardor is not of the finest, and he threatens to chisel the woman, left chasing her payment along a dock that provides a backdrop of nocturnal Manhattan.
The subsequent episodes shift to Manhattan, by and large. Mr. Lombardozzi shares a brief encounter with a wealthy, tipsy, adulterous wife played by Jill Hennessy. Her estrangement from spouse Malcolm Gets leads Mr. Gets to make a pass at abstract artist Steve Buscemi, who prefers to ingratiate himself with gallery receptionist Rosario Dawson, who has been drifting away from pretty-boy boyfriend Adrian Grenier, who strikes up an assignation with lonely actress and phone psychic Carol Kane, who gets a distress call from Wall Street loser Michael Imperioli, who closes the loop by soliciting Miss Farmiga back in frigid Jersey.
None of the encounters pays human-interest dividends. A freakish suspense begins when you wonder if Steve Buscemi is really about to share his first screen kiss with another guy. His character also appears to be mocking the art market in ways that might be fun to explore in an actual comedy.
Though not cast in the original Signoret role, Miss Dawson shares certain physical and temperamental resemblances that are wistfully appealing and perhaps worth exploiting in another movie. Predictably, Mr. Imperioli, Christopher of "The Sopranos," is entrusted with the most grotesque and sadistic vignette.
Mr. Mattei displays some evocative flair with New York settings, and the transfer from video to film doesn't look bad. There's also an effective musical theme from Theodore Shapiro, recalling Nino Rota when setting reflective moods for Federico Fellini. However, the picturesque or atmospheric grace notes are scarcely equal to the shallowness of the episodes invented to illustrate erotic hungers and emotional crises.
*
TITLE: "Love in the Time of Money"
RATING: R (Occasional profanity and sexual candor, including interludes of simulated intercourse; intimations of violence in one episode)
CREDITS: Written and directed by Peter Mattei.
RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes
MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS


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