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In a desolate and colorless landscape stands a dilapidated bathhouse run by a puffed-up blind man, his long-suffering wife, and their son Anton, who does all the work. He's lonely and unsophisticated, and he falls in love with the beautiful Eva, who comes to bathe with her father. When Eva and her father lose their home, they come to the bathhouse to stay, but bits of the ceiling fall on the old man and he dies. Eva blames Anton, and she seems to seek the arms of the brute Gregor. Can Anton win back her heart, get the bathhouse through a rigorous government inspection, and help keep his parents employed? Waiting out there somewhere is the paradise isle of Tuvalu. Written by
Drab colours, annoying characters... call me crazy but I liked it
This is one of the weirder movies out there. But I can't say it's original, because Jeunet & Caro pioneered this exact style 18 years earlier in "Le Bunker de la dernière rafale" (1981). This is so much of a rip-off that I wonder if the director was deliberately making an homage to "Le Bunker", right down to the weird woman's chewing gum collection (except in "Bunker" it was boogers. yeah, yuck).
Also, let's get something out of the way in case you don't know it already: this is basically a black & white, silent film. So you need to have a good attention span. It also has some of the ugliest actors I've ever seen. So don't expect to instantly fall in love with any of the characters, the way we do with Johnny Depp or the Hollywood prettyboys. Instead we see a lot of wrinkly guys in need of a good orthodontist. Welcome to European cinema.
If I haven't scared you off yet, then maybe there's hope. Now let's get to the good part. Even though the plot is simple, it's a very challenging & fun film to watch. Because there's very little dialogue (mostly grunts, a few shouts and oh yes, the most hilarious line ever: "TECHNOLOGY... SYSTEM... PROFIT!"), you're forced to work your brain to understand even the simplest situations. In that respect, it reminds me of those emergency cards you read on airplanes. You know, the goofy cartoon icons without any words which are supposed to explain how to save your life in the event of cabin depressurization. It's all so retro.
Some of the gags are classic, and you may be reminded of some old Charlie Chaplin material.
And even though I said it's black & white, there are some downright magical colour tints which give it a dreamy feel. In one particular blue-tinted shot, we see a graveyard of half-sunken ships. I couldn't think of a better way of showing it--all the colours in the world couldn't express it better. Imagine if "Metropolis" (1927) had been re-done with seamless camera-work, cranes & dollies, and a very convincing set. That should give you an indication of the visual style.
Really the only reason why I'm rating this a 7 instead of a 9 is because it lost points for lack of originality (Jeunet/Caro rip-off). But that shouldn't diminish its effectiveness as a work of art, especially to those of you who haven't seen "Le Bunker de la dernière rafale" or "Delicatessen". In any case, it's definitely worth the rental fee.
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