Crimes of Passion

The film makes the perhaps obvious connection between a prostitute providing comfort and affirmation to her clients, and a priest ministering to his flock. Russell must have enjoyed the perversity of the idea – he was the one who switched Shayne's role from a psychiatrist to a man of the cloth. It presented him with an opportunity to explore the way these two broken people feed off the inner lives of the men and women they serve. It's a deeper kind of voyeurism than just a sexual one. Kathleen Turner's China Blue has no personal life outside prostitution. She comes alive when she is transformed into other people's fantasies. 

The Reverend is totally overwhelmed with unwanted sexual thoughts and a fevered desire to purge them from the world around him, and finally – fatally – himself. He identifies China Blue as a kindred spirit, and confronts her with their shared pathology. But while she leads a schizophrenic life as a fashion designer by day and hooker by night, Shayne is a little bit further down the road to total psychosis. On the other end of the spectrum is a boy scout former high school quarterback with a wife and two kids, who remains a romantic at heart. Kathleen Turner's character is caught between the relative normality he offers, and the dangerous escapades of an obsessive sex-crazed priest. 

It's a gleefully transgressive film, and some of the most outré moments (including an S&M-tinged session with a policeman enjoying his own baton) were cut for the theatrical release. The smutty content is offset by Russell's theatrical, campy direction, where the actors are allowed to deliver their dialogue in long takes, as if we're watching them on a stage. The set design isn't as spectacular as in The Devils, but Russell still goes to town on China Blue's hotel room, full of props and pulsing with neon light, and Shayne's serial-killeresque den where religious symbols are pasted alongside pornography and lit up with a thousand flickering candles. The star of the show, however, is Kathleen Turner, who not only nails every bit of innuendo-laden repartee, but subtly conveys the fear and loneliness lurking beneath the bravado and roleplay. 

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