If David Fincher's SE7EN was a mystery shot through the prism of 70s American crime films, then Robert Schwentke's TATTOO is a mystery shot through the prism of 70's European art films. The comparisons are inescapable, it shares SE7EN's dark look, dual detectives, mid-point chase and "something in a box" as well as its meticulous, exacting direction, but it is a very different film with very different thematic agendas. This German film about a secret market in skin and its thematic concerns of guilt, conformity, identity, violence and heritage suggest obvious connections to the Third Reich and the current crisis of east/west reintegration of culture. This rich thematic tapestry is held together by one of the most precise, stylish and icily dreamlike directorial debuts to be seen in decades. Shades of Antonioni and Cronenberg, as well as Tourneur and Hitchcock inform a style which is never imitative and truly hypnotic. Strong, understated performances ground the film, which stumbles only in a pre-climax exposition scene that feels shoe-horned in, for until that point, every piece of information is earned and visually realized. Schwentke is a director to watch; provocative, thoughtful and clearly in love with the art of cinema.
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