Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 26, 2015 10:13 pm 
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Mood and stylish visuals can only get you so far

Barnaby Southcombe is Charlotte Rampling's son, and he departs from his usual TV work for this feature film directing debut. Charlotte herself said she didn't think his screenplay was very good: "She doesn't mince her words," he said. Described in a blurb as a "moody, downbeat noir," it's cool, dark, elegant and beautifully photographed, making London's Barbican complex look dreamlike and sinister. It's also dreary, creepy, and clumsily edited toward the end with final revelations that were already obvious and never really matter. This is the ultimate unreliable narrator tale, told from the point of view of Anna (Rampling ("I," get it?), who lives in a torpid dream world, or perhaps, is simply crazy. But of course Rampling still, at 66, has that elegant beauty and that somber hypnotic Mona Lisa "Look" that may turn you on or off, depending on what movie she's in. This one, alas, is a clinker.

The services of Gabriel Byrne and the remarkable Eddie Marsan (the latter mostly wasted here as a frustrated lieutenant) are enlisted as cops investigating the violent and bloody killing of a man who had gone to a speed dating event that Rampling's character also attended. She's a lonely divorcee who seems to do little other than sell beds at the posh Peter Jones London department story and participate in speed-dating, bringing men home with her, in between leaving odd messages to her daughter from a pay phone. The central question, "Is she a murderer?" may soon be abandoned by viewers in favor of "Why should I care?" D.C.I. Bernie Reid (Byrne) cares, but he's confused. When he should be tailing Anna, he winds up dating her and apparently in love with her. Poor D.I. Kevin Franks (Marsan) can't seem to keep him on track. He becomes as dreamy and wacko as Anna. Along the way Honor Blackman turns up, but names and atmosphere can't hold together Southcombe's adaptation of Elsa Lewin's novel, which never makes sense. At the time of the UK release Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian gave a very short review saying he liked the department store and the use of the Barbican and the moodiness, but found the "story itself unconvincing." Indeed. It's also off-putting, annoying, and cloying and a waste of the commitment Rampling, Byrne, and the rest of the cast give to it.

Southcombe has said in interviews that his mother had often told him his earlier short scripts didn't work, and her disapproval, not to mention the way her long period of crippling depression warped their relationship, was probably why it took him so long to get around to making a feature. Now he needs to forget about mamma's disapproval and try doing a film on his own, away from her influence, out from under her shadow, and without her in the lead.

I, Anna, 93 mins., debuted at Berlin Feb. 2012, showing at a number of other festivals including Sydney, Shanghai, and Locarno. It opened in the UK 7 December 2012; also released in Germany, Belgium, Sweden and Brazil.

Showing at the Mostly British Festival at the Vogue Theatre in San Francisco at 7:00 pm Friday, 13 February 2015, when it will be introduced by Peter Robinson.

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