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1 item from 1998

Film review: 'Chambermaid' Another 'Titanic' sails

10 February 1998 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Luna's 'Chambermaid' unlike Cameron epic

Arriving with fortuitous timing to capitalize on the craving for any and all things Titanic, Bigas Luna's "The Chambermaid and the Titanic" is less about the doomed ocean liner than it is a meditation on the need for storytelling and illusion in our lives. While at times a bit cloying and heavy-handed, the film is a frequently moving effort that should do respectable boxoffice internationally and certainly merits domestic theatrical release.

The French-Spanish-Italian co-production recently made its U.S. premiere as the opening-night attraction at the 15th Miami Film Festival.

Director Luna ("Jamon, Jamon"), whose last work was the far more ribald and outrageous "Bambola", works here in an uncharacteristically muted, lyrical style. The story, set in 1912, concerns Horty (Olivier Martinez), a worker at a French foundry. When he wins a company athletic contest, his prize is a trip to Southampton to watch the Titanic sail off on her maiden voyage. The trip is only for one, so Horty must leave his beautiful wife Zoe (Romance Bohringer) at home.

Staying at a posh hotel the night before the sailing, Horty hears a knock on his door late in the evening. It is a young woman, Marie (Aitana Sanchez Gijon), who is scheduled to depart on the ship the next day to work as a maid. She explains that there is not a hotel room to be had in the city; could she possibly stay with him? Horty, dazzled by her beauty, agrees; despite Marie's best attempts at seduction, nothing happens during the course of the evening.

After returning home, Horty hears of the ship's sinking but cannot find Marie's name on the list of survivors. He tells his fellow foundry workers of the strange encounter and soon begins to embellish the tale in highly romantic fashion. Eventually, his story, which now includes a passionate encounter on the ship itself, takes on a mythical quality; Horty tours the countryside, becoming a theatrical star. Then, one evening, he has a fateful reunion with Marie.

Much like the story Horty tells, "The Chambermaid and the Titanic" has the spirit of a romantic folk tale, though it is peppered with a gritty realism that prevents it from succumbing to bathos. The film has an undeniable romantic aura enhanced by the beauty of its three leads. As the mysterious Marie, Sanchez Gijon is at her most alluring. Martinez is highly charismatic, while Bohringer brings a touching vulnerability to her turn as the confused wife.

-- Frank Scheck in Miami


A UGC YM presentation

Mate Production, La Sept Cinema, France 2 Cinema, Rodeo Drive, Tornasol Films, Westdeutscher Rundfunk

Credits: Director: Bigas Luna; Screenplay: Bigas Luna, Cuca Canals, Jean-Louis Benoit; Director of photography: Patrick Blossier; Editor: Kenout Peltier; Original score: Alberto Iglesias. Cast: Horty: Olivier Martinez; Zoe: Romance Bohringer; Marie: Aitana Sanchez Gijon; Simeon: Didier Bezace; Zeppe: Aldo Maccione. No MPAA rating. Running time -- 99 minutes. Color/stereo.


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