In "The Company of Wolves," the werewolf returns, on a leash held by Jean Cocteau. This is a B movie for the art houses, layered with surreal sequences, dreams within dreams. It's also a drearily paced bore.
The lupine beasties here stand for the sexual fears of Rosaleen (Sarah Patterson), an adorable adolescent who dreams the movie. Her grandmother, a Transylvanian combination of Ann Landers and Betty Friedan (a delightful Angela Lansbury), advises her to guard her virginity: "Once the bloom is gone, oh, then the beast comes out" in men, she tells Rosaleen, and swaddles her in a red shawl.
In textbook surrealist style, clocks run backward, spiders the size of fists fall into opened Bibles. Rosaleen wanders through a forest filled with lubricious frogs, coiled snakes and, of course, wolves, lolling lascivious tongues. The worst of these are the "wolves hairy on the inside," or werewolves: men "whose eyebrows meet in the middle" and who transform graphically before our eyes, tearing the skin from their faces to reveal the brutes beneath.
You don't have to be Bruno Bettelheim to figure out what something like "Little Red Riding Hood" is really about. But by emphasizing the Freudian aspects of its tale, "The Company of Wolves" draws all the conclusions for us.
The Company of Wolves, at area theaters, is rated R, and contains violence and sexual themes.