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'Under The Sun of Satan' : (NR)

By Hal Hinson
Washington Post Staff Writer
November 04, 1989

Here's your choice: You can spend however many dollars it takes to see Maurice Pialat's "Under the Sun of Satan."

Or you can stay at home and hit yourself over the head with a hammer.

As I see it, here are the respective virtues of each:

Assuming you don't already have one, an ordinary household hammer at a local hardware store costs $6.29. And since the price of admission is only $5, it would actually be cheaper to see the film. But it would not be more cost-efficient, mostly because the hammer could be used at some later time, for everyday home repairs or unruly kids and pets.

With regard to the pain issue, the forceful application of the hammer to the skull causes a sharp, intense variety and, depending on the severity of the blow, either slight wooziness or, in extreme cases, loss of consciousness. There is also the very real chance that, if you're doing it right, a lump will appear.

On the other hand, the pain caused by "Under the Sun of Satan" (which, by the way, stars Gerard Depardieu as a tortured Catholic priest and Sandrine Bonnaire as, basically, a nut case) is less extreme but gnawing and prolonged at a low-grade level through interminable scene after scene in which actors run through page after page of dialogue, all about characters you have no previous knowledge of or events that are equally obscure. Other symptoms include shortness of breath, lower back pain, loss of sensation in the extremities, a feeling of impending doom.

Treatment varies with the physician. For "Under the Sun of Satan," (which inexplicably won the grand prize at Cannes), most doctors recommend an anti-inflammatory, like aspirin or ibuprofen, and a cold compress, and suggest that the patient elevate the feet and keep warm to reduce the possibility of shock. But according to my doctor, time is the best remedy. "Basically, this sort of thing is beyond the reach of medical science."

He also said that the lump should respond to ice.

Under the Sun of Satan is unrated.

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