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In this 2003 remake of the classic 1952 French film, Fanfan la Tulipe is a swashbuckling lover who is tricked into joining the army of King Louis XV by Adeline La Franchise, who tells Fanfan that by doing so, he will eventually marry one of the king's daughters.
Every family has its secrets and tries to hold them hidden within domestic walls. However, those of the family of Marcus Aylesbury are in order to become public because of the family's long date friend Trent, a journalist faithful to his ideals who, put under pressure by his editor, is looking for a "sexy-scoop"... Written by
Wants to be a broad and somewhat epic character study but the result is an alright, realistic drama about some individuals we may connect with.
I feel as if I should've liked Chromophobia more than I did. It's funny; the things that should work in the film's favour actually contribute in it being of the ordinary and unspectacular kind rather than the broad, masterful and interesting. These things are the things like the cast, in which so many huge names are a part of the production that the film gets bogged down and lost concentrating on them all, as if they were all fighting for the limelight. Secondly, the multi strand narrative approach works against the film ever so slightly due to the overall concentration. There are times when certain scenes from certain strands are played out and you feel rather immersed in how they'll contribute to the overall piece but the mini-narratives will come to a sort of sudden ending and the film will focus on something else that isn't as interesting.
The Chromophobia of the title refers to a definition of a piece of art within the film. It's a long and complicated definition that we do not get enough time to digest, a tactic director Martha Fiennes uses on purpose to get across the epic and broad feeling she wants the film to have. Chromophobia is the title of the film and the definition of the title reads something like: '.....an advanced piece of art that juxtaposes the genre whilst......blah blah blah.' This self recognition and deliberate attempt to tell the audience what they're watching through preachy visual aids is one of quite a few weak points in the film, but when the film is weak it comes across as either quite pompous or quite uninteresting.
Within Chromophobia are three different strands of groups of people. The most interesting is probably the one involving Gloria (Cruz) and Colin, played by Rhys Ifans in one of his 'Once Upon a Time in the Midlands' roles rather than a 'The 51st State' or a 'Kevin and Perry Go Large' role; calmer and more aware. Colin is a social worker that visits call girl Gloria to check up on her and her young child; Colin is an ex-cop but he does not carry that rugged look an ex-cop might and I think he is completely miss-cast. This strand works because it is focused more on characters than actions and reactions; it carries a fair amount of antagonism and sexual tension between the two that works quite well on a dramatic level.
The film also focuses on victim of the post-modern age housewife Iona Aylesbury (Scott-Thomas) and her post-modern home complete with metallic feel and transparent look whilst keeping with her relationship with husband Marcus (Lewis) and potentially disgruntled son Orlando (Tibber). In terms of character, she represents the more sensitive study of the film; a descent into potential madness with suspicion threatening to dominate her feelings to do with her husband and there is a level of ignorance surrounding her son, who clearly has some sort of problem, but she doesn't seem able enough to either deal with it or inquire into how to. She is more focused on a matching set of televisions displaying the same image in perfect tandem than the well being of her son's (and her own) health.
I got the feeling that a part of this juxtaposition between whatever it was the quote said earlier on is evident in the early exchanges. The film flicks from the post-modern house mentioned complete with ambiguously diegetic piano music to a rough council estate in a few cuts that I presume was supposed to force us to sit up and take notice. Around this area is where Stephen Tulloch lives and he's played by Ralph, Martha Fiennes' brother. The role is perfect for Mr. Fiennes as the passive but eerie in a shifty way guy that doubles up as the villain, as seen in Red Dragon. As a contribution to the film, Stephen acts as one of the more chilling characters in the piece and makes sure he gets in some Apple Mac. product placement as well "Yes, it comes with a webcam(!)" but while the paedophilic narrative ideas are there, they are underdeveloped and consequently anti-climatic echoing what I said in the first paragraph about how individual situations are played out but come to a premature finish. Through one event or another, the scariest or evilest character in the film is placed in a hospital bed for the rest of the film.
The other strand involves old buddies Trent (Chaplin) and Marcus Aylesbury again, in a weekend away for shooting and hunting and so forth but Trent being a journalist manages to screw the friendship up through a powerful event that will create ripples for weeks to come. I think in the end, there are just too many characters that all pile up and tussle for recognition on the screen. There is so much going on and so many different emotions to try and connect with so many different characters that it borders on overload. We cannot feel empathy or pity towards one person because we know what they're like when they interact with another in another strand and we cannot, as human beings, evoke various different reactions on demand as the finale rounds things up. The film's heart seems to be in the right place and certain things are pulled off to a decent degree but it remains underwhelming and, like I said, a missed effort.
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