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Monday, May 18, 2015

New on Video: Riot-Grrrl Religiosity in Stigmata

Posted By on Mon, May 18, 2015 at 11:00 AM


Remember when we had it on good authority that the world would end, or Jesus would return, or that there would be some kind of big spirituality-tinged shakeup on Y2K, along with the lights going out and the machines all turning on their masters? Oh, those were the days. That anxiety was represented in many of the films of the time, and while Rupert Wainwright's 1999 Stigmata (which, as they do, Shout! Factory is releasing on Blu-ray on May 19) isn't apocalyptic per se, and in fact harkens back to films from a decade earlier such as the 1998 Seventh Sign and William Peter Blatty's underrated 1990 Exorcist III, it's still very much a product of its millennial era, and not just because of the "Music by Billy Corgan" credit.

Frankie (Patricia Arquette) is an atheist hairdresser with a mostly impeccable fashion sense — she has some jackets that I want very much — who begins to experience stigmata, the crucifixion wounds of Christ, and generally finds that she's losing her shit in a very real way. Father Kiernan (Gabriel Byrne) is dispatched from a wary Vatican to find out the truth. Wackiness, and a Dan Brown-level conspiracy, ensues.


Director Rupert Wainwright had mostly done music videos up to this point, and Stigmata very much that feel to it, but not quite to the point of style overwhelming substance as so often happens with former music video directors (*cough*MICHAELBAY*cough*). He also delivers a thoroughly engaging commentary (ported over from the original MGM DVD release) in which his love for his film shines through, but he also happily talks about all the places it doesn't quite work, and all the ways that the picture had to be altered after early test screenings.

This included having to make Arquette's character more "likable," particularly when those test audiences thought that Frankie was stealing another girl's boyfriend in an early club scene. I can't help thinking that a similar movie in which a male protagonist appears to have scored with someone else's girlfriend might not have had quite as much of an issue, but that's only because sexually promiscuous men are studs, while similarly active women are sluts, and them's the rules.

In addition to a few meh-worthy documentaries about the phenomenon of stigmata — I love history and non-fiction, nothing gets me to dive for the remote faster than the seeing History Channel, mostly because of that aforementioned love for history and non-fiction — plus some deleted scenes and an alternate ending, the other big extra is Natalie Imbruglia's video for "Identify," during the shooting of which you just know Billy Corgan stood off screen, saying, "Higher! Hold your chin up even higher!"

And, for the record, there's nothing Riot-Grrrly about Stigmata. But hey, coming up with rhyming and/or alliterative phrases for these movies ain't always easy.
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Sherilyn Connelly


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