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r rated, four moon iconLions Gate Home Entertainment (DVD), ASIN: B00006HAXZ
If viewers enjoy a psychological limbo dance, they will adore the film Beat. This movie embarks on an exploration of how low the human race can descend as it portrays increasingly despicable acts. How about a husband announcing to his wife that he prefers having a paid affair with another man? Check! And if he is the heir to an amazing fortune but spends his last penny on his reluctant paramour? Check again! Then, how can she willingly play a little game of William Tell, posing dramatically while he aims a gun, his hand shaking, at her outstandingly blond head? Audiences will find themselves asking these very questions -- and many more -- as they puzzle over two murders which intertwine with a controversial genius's best sellers.

DVD: beatIn these ghostly theatrics, the anti-hero himself seems to rise from his grave to tell his tale of ghastly freedom -- at last! -- from writer's block. Fans of the Beat Generation writers can't help but be fascinated by this historically inspired plot. Its central character is William Seward Burroughs II, none other than the author of Junky, Queer, The Adding Machine, Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and Naked Lunch. If anything, this film shows that Burroughs' capacity to shock remains undiminished. The body died in 1997, but his range remains clear enough in selected rock groups, which still echo his themes and tactics.

The story-line will justifiably outrage special interest groups, leaping bounds, as it does, in testing the tastes of its audience. Tackling an enormously difficult role, Kiefer Sutherland plays the totally self-absorbed writer like a Bach exercise, faithfully recreating the famous gravely voice. Still, even Sutherland can bring no sympathy to a character who bludgeons his wife over the head with his homosexuality. Burroughs's common-law spouse, Joan Vollmer, hardly earns the outcries of feminists. She chooses to stand by her man, although he behaves like a petty gangster. Perhaps the writers and directors intended this film to offer an ironic vision of hell.

For its very inexplicability, fans of psychological mysteries may eat this movie up like strawberry cream. This delicious color halos ancient ruins and a volcano as the cast jaunts to Guatemala and Mexico City. In these exotic locations, the erstwhile literati play out their deadly drama, pooled in blue, draped in green. Intermittently, flashbacks flicker through their minds, black and white images as stirring as the newspaper headlines that might cry, "Murder!" Courtney Love merits special praise for bringing to life a hard-bitten muse -- both contradictory and provocative. As if all this hoopla did not set its audience on edge, the movie contains two killings which may or may not be linked. See this movie and decide precisely where greatness ends and infamy begins, or if, in this case, anyone can tell the difference.

Bring Freud to the screening, if possible. He may be able to figure these guys out, although a death wish will be no news to him.

Meg Curtis

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