how do you squeeze a complexlife into 99 minutes? Most films can't, not without making life's twists and turns seem ridiculous.
Bride Of The Wind scores a couple of unintended laughs trying. Beresford's tribute to Alma Mahler, the Viennese composer and muse whose beauty inspired several turn-of-the-century artists to the heights of their crafts, says little about what made this free spirit tick.
The more ground the film tries to cover, the more it flattens out the real Alma's contradictions into an exasperating caricature. She's played by newcomer Sarah Wynter, a Cate Blanchett look-alike who has trouble selling both her Viennese accent and Alma's intensely fickle personality.
She isn't helped by a script that conducts a series of whiplash-inducing 180-degree turns. When Alma meets the composer Gustav Mahler (Evita's Jonathan Pryce), for instance, she tells him she hates his music. This turns him on, which turns her on, which leads lickety-split to marriage and two kids.
Suddenly, he wants her to stop writing her own music. Her immediate response -- and this turns into the tedious pattern of the film -- is to sleep with a new artist, whom she soon grows to resent for quashing her self-expression.
By the third guy, it's hard to stay sympathic to this ninny. You want to say, "Button up your petticoat and write a damn concerto already."
Beresford, who is certainly capable of plowing deeper terrain (Driving Miss Daisy, Tender Mercies), is only interested in giving Alma's story a superficial gloss.
The costumes, locations and music all are palpably authentic. The people inside this carefully crafted world, however, seem fake.
Credit Vincent Perez, as Alma's obsessive third lover, with at least trying to set his cardboard character on fire.
BRIDE OF THE WIND directed by Bruce Beresford, written by Marilyn Levy, produced by Lawrence Levy and Evzen Kolar, with Sarah Wynter, Jonathan Pryce and Vincent Perez. 99 minutes. A Paramount Classics production. Opens Friday (June 15). For venues and times, see First-Run Movies, page 90. Rating: NN