Picks and Pans Review: Burning Secret

updated 01/16/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/16/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

Faye Dunaway sure knows how to dress up a part. Bedecked in 1919's finest as the sexually unfulfilled wife of a cold-fish diplomat (Ian Richardson) posted to Austria, she's a glittering clotheshorse. Just don't expect her to act. This is not a performance; it's a fashion statement. Dunaway's bosom begins heaving beneath her gowns when she accompanies her asthmatic 12-year-old son (the first-rate David Eberts) to a mountain sanatorium and locks into the hot gaze of a war-wounded baron, played by Klaus Maria Brandauer—a specialist in hot gazes, as he proved in Out of Africa. Brandauer befriends the lonely boy, but only to win the mother's favors. When the boy learns the truth, he is shattered. Writer and first-time feature director Andrew Birkin hypes Stefan Zweig's subtle short story into a melodramatic frenzy. Brandauer stalks his castle tower by night, a brooding figure against the snow. Dunaway shows progressively more cleavage. Eberts, faced with adultery and betrayal, becomes a man. Poppycock, yes, but sumptuously served. Shot in Czechoslovakia, the film beautifully re-creates a time and place. Too bad the story keeps spoiling the scenery. (PG)

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