Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Taking a New Gamble: Richard Kwietniowski Returns after a Long Absence with Owning Mahowny, His Obsession-Drenched Follow-Up to Love and Death on Long Island. (Film)

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Taking a New Gamble: Richard Kwietniowski Returns after a Long Absence with Owning Mahowny, His Obsession-Drenched Follow-Up to Love and Death on Long Island. (Film)

Article excerpt

Richard Kwietniowski had us worried there. His wryly subversive 1997 feature-film bow, Love and Death on Long Island, featuring John Hurt as a fuddy-duddy magnificently obsessed with B-flick hottie Jason Priestley, had critics and audiences marking him as a major new filmmaker. Then he went MIA for five years, an absence felt especially keenly by those of us who had previously loved his essential-viewing queer shorts such as 1988's The Ballad of Reading Gaol (featuring Quentin Crisp) and 1989's Brief Encounter-meets-Douglas Sirk Flames of Passion. Now, happily, the openly gay Londoner, who studied filmmaking at the University of California, Berkeley, returns with Owning Mahowny, another study in obsession, featuring Philip Seymour Hoffman as a real-life Canadian bank manager who swindles millions to feed his gambling compulsion, along with Minnie Driver as his enabler girlfriend and Hurt as a venal casino honcho.

Kwietniowski, flesh from a Berlin festival showing of his latest, chatted by phone from London about where he has been and where he's headed. Asked whether Love and Death on Long Island hadn't prompted scads of juicy offers, he says, laughing, "Nobody said, 'Why don't you look at this great script to which we have Meryl Streep attached?'" Bored by the fluffy comedy and unthrilling thriller scripts sent him, he developed several cherished projects that failed on liftoff. Then along came Mahowny. "I'm just now having to admit to the fact that I am extremely interested in obsession," he says with a chuckle. "As a filmgoer I like stories that take me where I wouldn't normally go in real life. I like the psychological aspect that film can naturalize almost anything--like in Hitchcock's Vertigo, where it's Jimmy Stewart playing the necrophiliac, so nobody rears up and yells, 'Sicko!'" Owning Mahowny's Jimmy Stewart is Philip Seymour Hoffman, the 35-year-old character actor who crackled in such movies as The Talented Mr. Ripley and Magnolia and in the Broadway revival of True West. Kwietniowski says, "He's used to playing pervy kinds of characters, yet you love and are absolutely with him. I needed an extraordinary actor whom I'd be asking to play a con artist, bully, thief, and manipulative asshole, and who treats his girlfriend and everyone else appallingly--who am I talking about here, Caligula? …

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