The death-shrouded 1961 short story by Yasunari Kawabata, Japan's first Nobel Prize winner for literature, has been filmed twice before, and despite a culturally specific milieu it's conceivable a filmmaker could relocate the tale to a new setting and get a movie out of it.
Not this one, though. Doleful German actor Vadim Glowna adapted, directed and stars as a Berlin businessman mourning the death of his wife and daughter. A friend (Maximillian Schell) turns him on to a bordello where the madame (Angela Winkler) oversees drugged, dead-to-the-world young women, designed to unlock the memories and desires of the older male clientele. The rules stipulate no actual intercourse. "The girls sleep and remember nothing," says the madame.
Glowna's a fine actor, but his film offers nothing but toneless ruminations on desire. Plus the musical score never shuts up with its tangos of regret.
Running time: 1:39. Runs Jan. 9-15 at the Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State St.; 312-846-2600; siskelfilmcenter.org. In German, with English subtitles.
No MPAA rating (parents cautioned for nudity and language).
'House of the Sleeping Beauties' -- 1 1/2 stars