“Better to be alone than in bad company” – Sicilian proverb

Humphrey Bogart, in the final scene of “Casablanca,” famously said to Ingrid Bergman, “The problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.”

True, and in master director Luca Guadagnino’s “A Bigger Splash,” the problems of four larger-than-life people (Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes, Matthias Schoenaerts, Dakota Johnson) seem smaller yet, at least at first glance, as they hide away in the sun

The action here is restricted to a tiny, mysterious island, and what happens there, especially in the last 20 minutes, stays there. Set on a Sicilian volcanic island in a sirocco season, a huge rock star, Marianne Lane (Tilda Swinton, who else in full David Bowie attire), is spending the warm summer days languishing in the soft shade with her new lover, Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts), while she recovers from throat surgery. She cannot speak or whisper, but this is Tilda Swinton. Make of her what you will.

Paul is a photojournalist and recovering alcoholic. This is to be a recovering summer for these two wounded souls, but into this garden of Eden, a snake slithers in the form of Harry Hawkes (an amazing, entire movie stealing Ralph Fiennes), a record producer and ex-lover of Marianne’s. Other biblical moments appear from time to time, but I think they’re accidental.

Harry, a motor mouth and hyperkinetic, self-absorbed coke head, has brought along his teen sex bomb of a daughter, Penelope (Dakota Johnson, continuing her still inchoate career of sexual parts). She looks 19. Don’t count on it.

The previews promised lots of heavy breathing, in-your-face nudity and various sexual positions. They deliver. And because it’s hot and boring here, much as the original Garden of Eden must have been, we’ve got Tilda in various stages of nakedness and a few stunning seaside outfits.

We’re treated to Dakota languishing full Monty on rocks in the middle of volcanic lakes, while Matthias looks on.

There is equal exposure for our guys as well. You will finally learn, had you been yearning to, how well endowed Fiennes and Schoenaerts are. With all of this nudity, full- and semi-hot winds and steamy seductions, “Bigger Blast” verges on the edge of an artsy, intellectual soft porn flick.

But with Luca Guadagnino at the helm and cinematographer Yorick Le Saux behind this cast, there’s no danger of such slumming.

This is billed as a psychological thriller. I’ll vouch for the first, but thriller is a stretch.

Something very bad will blow in with the sirocco of course, but it takes a while. Luca is in no hurry, as he has some expensive salaries to pay, and besides, there are Dakota and Tilda simmering on the rocks.

All here are beautiful to look at, and all are among the best actors a producer’s money can buy. Schoenaerts keeps getting better and better. Ralph Fiennes is a cinematic chameleon who does his best work since “In Bruges.” Tilda, a ghostly pale enigma, mystifies. Young Dakota is the sugar and spice.

As in all hot climes, things slow down, but Fiennes is the savior here. All juiced and coked up, he gives us a knockdown, Oscar worthy five-minute dance number to the Stones’ “Emotional Rescue” you’ll never forget. It’s worth the price of the movie and a cinematic keeper.

It’s going to be a long hot summer, and it starts here.

J.P. Devine is a former stage and screen actor.


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