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  Siesta Dream Cycle
Year: 1987
Director: Mary Lambert
Stars: Ellen Barkin, Gabriel Byrne, Julian Sands, Isabella Rossellini, Martin Sheen, Grace Jones, Jodie Foster, Alexei Sayle, Gary Cady, Graham Fletcher-Cook, Daniel Martín, Fabián Conde
Genre: Drama, WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Claire (Ellen Barkin) awakes in a field next to an airport wearing a bloodstained red dress, bruised, and wondering where on Earth she could be. She makes sure she is not otherwise wounded, picks herself up and heads for the nearest river where she whips off the dress and washes it in the water, puzzled as to who the blood belonged to. She lays the dress out to dry in the summer heat and lies back to contemplate her dilemma, and after a while she puts it back on and heads for the nearest road. Presently a taxi driver passes and she gets into the cab, finding a lipstick on the back seat which triggers her memory...

With a plot that bore quite some resemblance in its tricks to Carnival of Souls, if you haven't worked out what precisely has happened to Claire from about, ooh, the first ten seconds then you may get more out of it than most people did when it was first released where it was accused of being willfuly confusing and not worth the trouble to fathom its mysteries. It was scripted by Patricia Louisianna Knopp from Patrice Chaplin's novel, Knopp being a regular writer for executive producer Zalman King's softcore erotica, and having written Nine and a Half Weeks the year before you might expect this would be on similar lines.

Yet although there are aspects of that sexuality, mainly director Mary Lambert prefers to film the Spanish locations and her cast wandering around them (Claire deduces quickly that Spain is where she has ended up). Barkin may take all her clothes off within the first five minutes, but you will have a long wait for her to do so again, as it's the sex scene at the close of the movie where that occurs. In the meantime, she negotiates a remarkable cast and the pitfalls of a film that comes across as less deep and meaningful and more like a student work striving for significance.

But it's not all bad, as Lambert undoubtedly has an eye for the striking shot, and then there's that weird collection of actors to contend with. First up is none other than British comedian and author Alexei Sayle (with his name spelled wrong in the credits) as the cabbie, and what he ends up doing to Claire is difficult to take seriously if you're familiar with his other work, even if he is putting on an accent. Then the heroine's past life begins to be filled in during flashbacks, and we find out that she has left husband Martin Sheen behind in Death Valley where he was planning to stage a spectacular stunt.

And Claire was the skydiver intended to carry out that stunt, but she was more interested in seeing her former lover and trapeze artist Gabriel Byrne (also putting on a Spanish accent) who is married to a jealous Isabella Rossellini. As the day turns to night, Claire ditches the cabbie by kicking him in the balls and wanders into a posh party held to celebrate a photographic exhibition that happens to be attended by the likes of Julian Sands, Grace Jones and Jodie Foster trying out an English accent and pulling it off to some extent, even laughing in an upper class English manner. Some fans may be interested to see Foster cuddling up with Barkin, but it's the mystery which dominates, leaving the rest as so much window dressing. At times silly, Siesta at least manages a classy, dreamlike mood, but few will be satisfied by the contrived conclusion. Music by Miles Davis and Marcus Miller.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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