Passion in the Desert

Based on a story by Honore de Balzac, this stagy yet meditative feature, set in Egypt in 1798, begins with a grisly event that the rest of the movie explains in flashback. This has the effect of imposing an enormous, nearly intolerable tension on what otherwise might be an intriguingly meandering tale, and I kept wishing I wasn't mainly waiting for the opening to be explained. Yet I was somewhat impressed by writer-director Lavinia Currier's earnestness in treating the subject—the love between a wayward soldier from Napoleon's army (Ben Daniels) and a leopard. PG-13, 91 min.

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