Perfect Strangers | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Perfect Strangers

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Larry Cohen finally delivers with this pulpy, stylish thriller, about a Mafia hit man who falls for the mother of an infant witness to one of his contract slayings. The thematic overreaching of most of Cohen's films (It's Alive!, The Stuff, etc) takes a backseat here to (fitfully) sustained narrative and strange, hallucinatory ambience (New York makes a delirious foil for Cohen's spillover energies: there's no stylistic excess that doesn't fit right in). I'm not sure Cohen's quite in control of what he's doing, but his intuitions, if that's what they are, are generally on the mark, and the performance he gets out of Anne Carlisle (the androgyne from Liquid Sky, playing the mother here) is a luminous, floating thing: she's Garbo in a granny dress, reciting every line with perfect conviction (not easy to do with some of Cohen's dialogue) and odd, ethereal poise. Cohen's once again preoccupied with the innocent menace of childhood (the sentimental obverse of his corrosive cynicism), though his attention to women's themes (a Take Back the Night rally, a round of feminist male-bashing) comes as a surprise: maybe he's doing penance for past exploitation sins? With Brad Rijn, Ann Magnuson, and Stephen Lack. A Chicago premiere (1984). Cohen will be present for the Sunday screening. (Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Sunday, June 14, 8:00, and Tuesday, June 16, 6:00, 443-3737)

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