Life as a Fatal Sexually Transmitted Disease

Fans of Woody Allen's noncomic features might well go for this glum spiritual study of a physician adjusting—mainly with dignity and common sense—to his own death from inoperable cancer. Despite the jokey title, this has only a modicum of wisecracks, and its mordant Polish wisdom, while genuine, mainly seems all too familiar. It begins with a medieval-looking film-within-the-film about a horse thief and the religious guide who prepares him offscreen for death by hanging, then shifts to the doctor on the movie's location; he remains the focus thereafter, as he gradually learns about his terminal illness. I've never seen any of Krzysztof Zanussi's most famous films, which are highly respected, and perhaps I approached this picture with the wrong kind of expectations. It certainly isn't a bad film, but it doesn't hold a candle to Leo Tolstoy's “The Death of Ivan Ilyich.” Zbigniew Zapasiewicz is commanding as the hero; Krystyna Janda costars. 99 min.

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