Picks and Pans Review: Arch of Triumph
updated 06/03/1985 AT 01:00 AM EDT
•originally published 06/03/1985 AT 01:00 AM EDT
Finding a love story for anyone with an IQ of more than 11 isn't easy. Especially one that features mature adults in the leading roles. Would you believe no gratuitous sex—as the lovers climb into bed the scene cuts to the next day? Arch of Triumph, based on the novel by Erich Maria Remarque (All Quiet on the Western Front), is an effective, at times haunting story of desperate characters, set in Paris, 1939. Anthony (The Elephant Man) Hopkins plays Ravic, a German doctor who fled the Nazis after being tortured for helping Jews. Upstairs, Downstairs' Lesley-Anne Down is Joan, a beautiful, despair-ridden actress whom he meets one night on a bridge over the Seine. After helping her through a crisis, they have a star-crossed affair. Veteran actor Donald Pleasance pops up as a Gestapo chief named Haake, who haunts the Parisian streets looking for Jews and other refugees. As it turns out, Ravic is looking for Haake, the very man—as we see in grueling flashbacks—who tortured him. The mostly British cast is first class. Hopkins gives a strong, melancholy performance, while Down, who grows more sultry with age, comes off as a cross between Faye Dunaway and Marlene Dietrich. Pleasance, without overacting, injects his villainous character with a delicious nastiness. Filming on location, director Waris Hussein captures the ominous, pre-World War II ambience of Paris. Best of all is the dialogue. As Ravic and Joan are about to have their first kiss, he whispers to her: "The charm of the unknown is gone. The charm of familiarity is yet to come. Will we survive?" Top that Porky's fans.