1996, NR, 78 min. Directed by Lynne Stopkewich. Starring Molly Parker, Peter Outerbridge, Jay Brazeau, Natasha Morley.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., May 30, 1997

When first we meet Kissed's young Sandra Lomax, it's clear that she already has an overwhelming attraction toward dead things. We watch as the gawky pre-teen (Morley) engages in ritualistic burials of dead birds and chipmunks found in the environs of her girlhood home. One day, as her first menstrual blood begins to flow while stroking a dead bird during one of her burial ceremonies, it's clear that Sandra's sexual proclivities are now set for life. As an older teen (now played by Parker), Sandra follows Eros to a job at a funeral parlor where she learns the art of embalming and the joys of necrophilia. This Canadian film by first-time feature director Lynne Stopkewich arrives with the kind of anticipation and notoriety that, perhaps, could only be engendered by a sensitive film about necrophilia. Based on a story by Canadian author Barbara Gowdry which was discovered by the filmmaker in a book of erotica for women, Kissed is, indeed, a tasteful and sympathetic exploration of the sexual taboo. Sexually, nothing terribly explicit is shown. In fact, more likely to disturb are the gut-puncturing descriptions of embalming techniques. The film is also well-served by the exceptional performance of lead Molly Parker who underplays the lurid aspects and adds just a touch of knowing humor to the ongoing voiceover narration of her story. Eventually, Sandra meets and discloses her secret to Matt (Outerbridge), a medical student who, rather than recoils, finds her peccadillo increases his attraction toward her. Although the two begin a sexual relationship, Sandra realizes that these mortal pleasures of the flesh hardly compare with those offered by her “stiffs.” And poor Matt grows increasingly jealous of Sandra's corpses, scouring the obituaries daily to deduce his competition. It's an obsession that consumes him and comes to dominate the final third of the movie, leading to a Realm of the Senses kind of inevitability. The dramatic distraction detracts from the film's primary story as it becomes more the tale of necrophiliacs and the men who love them. However, it may seem more like a distraction than it is since Kissed ultimately does very little in terms of exploring the extremely hot-button topic it raises. This whole sex and death connection is a conundrum that has intrigued philosophers and artists throughout history. Sandra's explanations of her sexual inclinations are couched in vague spiritual terms that describe the “light” of the corpses or their process of “crossing over.” Why does she project such “loneliness” onto the corpses; why are her expressions of compassion limited solely to male corpses; why are female necropohiles so statistically scant (in comparison to male adherents); and how do Sandra's assumptions about the wishes of the dead jibe with notions of consensual sex? These and other questions are richly fascinating, but you'll find none of them explored in Kissed. Like its title, Stopkewich's film offers a provocative peck on the cheek but refrains from going all the way.

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Kissed, Lynne Stopkewich, Molly Parker, Peter Outerbridge, Jay Brazeau, Natasha Morley

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