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1 item from 2003

A House on a Hill

10 December 2003 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Abramorana Entertainment

NEW YORK -- The first fictional feature from acclaimed montage creator and documentary filmmaker Chuck Workman ("The Source", "Superstar"), "A House on the Hill" unfortunately demonstrates the same fractured attention span that makes those Oscar-night montages so entertaining. Telling the tale of a visionary architect reflecting on his career while designing one last magnum opus, the film displays stylistic imagination but remains stubbornly inert. It is playing an exclusive theatrical engagement at New York's Cinema Village.

Philip Baker Hall, in a rare starring role, plays Harry Mayfield, a cranky modernist architect who takes as his inspiration Howard Roark, the hero of Ayn Rand's classic novel "The Fountainhead" (befitting Mr. Workman's previous efforts, he includes a film clip). Harry, who now teaches instead of practicing his craft, is lured out of retirement by a shallow but rich couple who persuade him to rebuild what was originally going to be his dream house, all that remains of which is a charred wreckage on a cliff in Malibu (as if that piece of prime real estate could have sat vacant for so long). Chronicling his efforts is Gaby Laura San Giacomo), an irritating documentary filmmaker who follows him every step of the way.

Examining both Harry's tortured personal history, personified in the form of his ex-wife (Shirley Knight) and, more effectively, his creative process, the film takes on a fractured, often disconnected form, its frequently slippery narrative going in and out of focus. Despite some individually resonant moments, the film never quite seems to decide what it's trying to say, and devices employed by the filmmaker like shifting the aspect ratio at will, often within the same scene, prove far more distracting than illuminating.

Nonetheless, there are some intriguing elements to the proceedings, and the ever-reliable Hall, underplaying with his usual skill, is compelling as the conflicted architect. His haunting gravitas ultimately proves weightier and more durable than the rickety structure of the movie surrounding him. »

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1 item from 2003

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