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"Collusion" drives director Richard Burridge's sexy and suspenseful foray into the illusive, high-brow world of the London art scene. Seemingly innocuous subtleties and sultry undertones betray the
My love affair with intricate, enigmatic plots began a few years back with David Mamet's `The Spanish Prisoner' and my masochistic tendencies a few years prior to that. It's almost an oxymoron really because deriving pleasure from this genre of film can be truly taxing on the brain in that it forces you to really evaluate what drives people. And to see this played out is sometimes a very scary thing. Fortunately, the self-titled `Collusion' acknowledges the deception from the get-go. More importantly, it leaves its audience guessing and wondering about the truth up to its abrupt conclusion. The last 5 minutes of the film being the appropriate time where you think to yourself: `What actually happened?' and are left with about a billion puzzle pieces you need to put back together. In a world plagued with films intended to explicitly shock and immediately gratify (where our attention span is shorter than a 30 second frame), a film like `Collusion' stands out as a classy remnant of a not-so-far gone past when people actually enjoyed participating more actively in the cinematic experience by utilizing a tiny fraction of the space between their ears.
The deliberate tension-filled mood for `Collusion' is aptly affected in the smoky jazz tunes scored by David Mitchum.. The film's main character, Jack Littlemore (Aden Gillett) is a mysterious man, belying an artifice of the strong, silent type. We are immediately both intrigued by this man and skeptical of him. Hints about Jack's past are strategically placed throughout (in the way of understated comments and character interactions) and from bits and pieces we gather Jack is a man with a dubious history. Jack's brash gal pal, Sally, is played with according bravado by the ever-so-effective Kate Ashfield. Like Jack, she is also of a questionable background. While we may not like Sally's self-promoting antics very much, we can't help but be somewhat sympathetic to her dogmatic resistance to fail. (and be amused by her unabashed disloyalty to anyone but herself) Her relationship with Jack as she describes it: `Two ships that bump in the night' (By the way, I LOVE this line and will make a point of using it as often as I can) Simplicity pervades Sally. She is very linear. Jack, it would appear is not.
Darren (the beautiful Daniel Lapaine) enters the story early on as an acquaintance from Jack's past. Jack does not like Darren and Darren enjoys getting under Jack's skin. The cat & mouse uneasiness between the two men mimics the tension in the group as a whole. (rounded out by Darren's heiress girlfriend, Serena) Serena (Jessica Brooks) is Sally's polar opposite. Quiet, genteel, and much more refined, Serena mirror's Jack's persona. She appears silent, yet quite possibly not so strong. Despite their choice of partners, there is definitely more chemistry (both spoken and unspoken) between the Jack/Serena and Darren/Sally duos. And not so surprisingly there is jealousy. Sally wants to be Serena. She studies her, almost like an actor/actress would research a role. She copies her clothes, tries to affect her mannerisms, and ultimately seduces Serena's boyfriend. Even Darren and Jack seem at times indistinguishable. This is the point however. To reveal at a very base level, that art is artifice, that people's facades are just that, that truth is an unknown entity, and thus deception commonplace. And in this world, true intimacies are rare.
Imogen Stubbs plays Jack's ex-wife, Mary, and Ames' lawyer. Blackmailed by Ames, she becomes a pawn in the collusion. She is inevitably torn between loyalties to her employer and her ex-husband. While Jack is usually very guarded and deliberate in his actions, he seems the most indiscreet in his interactions with her, almost to the point of revealing the collusion. But not quite. We must remember that Jack is more calculating than he seems. Of course as the film relays nothing is as it seems. So it's all amateurish guesswork (on our parts), really.
Serena's father, Ames (Leslie Phillips) is a prominent tycoon who seeks to control her and to use his power to manipulate anyone who gets in his way. He is particularly hell-bent on destroying Darren. (or any man in Serena's life) While Ames appears ruthless on the surface and is an altogether detestable character, Phillips plays the character with a certain directness and honesty that lies in stark contrast to every other person in the film. Like Sally, you know what motivates Ames. Darren, Serena, and Jack are more of a riddle...
A riddle that Burridge does not give up until he is forced to and the film must end. Burridge, a well-known screenwriter (`The Fourth Protocol') took on many roles behind the scenes. He acted as producer, director, and screenwriter. For his first time out as all 3, I have to give the man my sincerest praise. The film seduces you with its sexy songs and its even sexier characters. And leaves you achingly wanting for more. You slowly succumb to its rhythm and do so almost subconsciously, unaware of the spell it has cast and just how relentlessly it'll linger.
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