Water Drops on Burning Rocks

on July 12, 2000 by Shlomo Schwartzberg
   Based on an early play by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, "Water Drops on Burning Rocks" tackles all of the late German filmmaker's pet themes--sex, obsession and death--but still never amounts to much. Leopold (Bernard Giraudeau) is a cold businessman who, as the film begins, has just picked up Franz (Malik Zidi), a callow and seemingly innocent youth. The two set up housekeeping, bicker like an old married couple and indulge in some mild dominance/submission scenarios. Then Franz's sexy girlfriend Anna (Ludvine Sagnier) shows up, and soon after so does Vera (Anna Thomson), Leopold's transsexual ex-lover. Their appearances change the couple's power dynamics.

   Divided into four acts, the film, made in French but with German characters, never builds up steam. After its witty, playful first two acts, it trails off, as if director/scripter Francois Ozon--and by extension Fassbinder--did not know where to go with the story.    Starring Bernard Giraudeau, Malik Zidi, Ludvine Sagnier and Anna Thomson. Directed and written by Francois Ozon. Produced by Marc Missonier. A Winstar release. Drama. French-language, subtitled. Unrated. Running time: 90 min.

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