Friday October 13, 1995

     Jeremy Podeswa's sleek, stylized "Eclipse" is a film of surprises. Set in Toronto eight or nine days before a solar eclipse, it starts out as a contemporary "La Ronde" covering the spectrum of sexual orientation--straight, gay and bi.
     Initially, the moon and the sun crossing paths as a symbol of individuals engaging in a brief sexual encounter like ships passing in the night seems a bit schematic, just as the initial interludes seem somewhat arbitrary and even improbable, as if Podeswa is asking us to believe that every time one person meets another, they swiftly proceed to sex.
     Maybe it's an instance of a first-time feature director making a movie that gets better as it goes along, but the encounters do, in fact, gain in substance as the film progresses. It proves to be a work of accumulative emotional impact and meaning by the time it reaches that climactic eclipse, a sequence of dramatic power evoking a sense of the spiritual and of the mystery and danger of the universe.
     Like Max Ophuls' "La Ronde," itself an adaptation of Arthur Schnitzler's 1897 "Reigen," "Eclipse" is composed of a series of vignettes in which one lover moves on to the next, who in turn moves on to another until the last lover connects with the first, thus completing a circle.
     A French Canadian housekeeper (Pascale Montpetit), recently arrived in Toronto from a small town in Quebec, is insolent and contemptuous of her middle-aged employer (John Gilbert) when she submits to the advances he's paying extra for. But when she encounters a warm, affable Central American (Manuel Aranguiz) at a language school, they make love tenderly after she confesses to an abusive past he cannot understand because of the language barrier.
     Similarly, an androgynous-looking teen-ager (Matthew Ferguson, last seen in Denys Arcand's "Love and Human Remains") confidently seduces a married man (Greg Ellwand) only to find himself hurt and vulnerable after an encounter with a dismissive artist (Earl Pastko) interested only in casual sex.
     Beautifully crafted and well-acted, "Eclipse" is sensual rather than erotic and always discreet. Podeswa appreciates physical beauty, but what interests him is emotion rather than lust, and an individual's place in the world.


Eclipse, 1995. Unrated. A Strand Releasing presentation of a Fire Dog Films and Time Medienvertrieb production. Writer-director Jeremy Podeswa. Producers Camelia Frieberg, Podeswa. Executive producer Wolfram Tichy. Cinematographer Miroslaw Baszak. Editor Susan Maggi. Music Ernie Tollar. Art director Tamara Deverell. In English, French and Spanish, with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes. Pascale Montpetit as Sylvie. Manual Aranguiz as Gabriel. Matthew Ferguson as Angelo. Greg Ellwand as Norman.