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The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film - Michael Bodey Twit­ter: @michael­bodey

CAN you imag­ine di­rect­ing your mother in a film? The task is a tri­fle eas­ier if your mother is Char­lotte Ram­pling.

Barn­aby Southcombe is the son who cast his mum in I, Anna, a mod­ern noir thriller re­leased this week that may ap­peal to ma­ture au­di­ences who have al­ready seen Dustin Hoff­man’s comic drama Quar­tet. There are many things to like about Southcombe’s mod­est film de­spite it dis­play­ing the lapses and holes so typ­i­cal of a de­but fea­ture.

First, the per­for­mances are top notch from the lead cast. We should al­ways ex­pect that of Ram­pling, who one may be­lieve is wise enough to se­lect roles that suit her or won’t em­bar­rass her. At least that’s my defin­ing im­age of the star of The Night Porter, Swim­ming Pool, The Ver­dict, Un­der the Sand and Star­dust Mem­o­ries. Then I reacquainted my­self with her ex­ten­sive cur­ricu­lum vi­tae and, among the fine pe­riod dra­mas and mea­sured Euro­pean films, the English ac­tress has hid­den away her fair share of tur­keys and pay­days, in­clud­ing Ba­sic Instinct 2, Baby­lon A.D. and Street­Dance 3-D. That only goes to show how her cap­ti­vat­ing work over­whelms all else; I’d still happily watch her cross­ing the street which, as it hap­pens, she does quite a bit of in I, Anna.

Then there’s Gabriel Byrne, so good in the late 1980s and early 90s in films in­clud­ing Gothic, Miller’s Cross­ing and, of course, The Usual Sus­pects. Again mem­o­ries of his best work, in­clud­ing the re­cent US se­ries In Treat­ment, tend to for­give the medi­ocre choices of a hand­some and in­trigu­ing screen char­ac­ter.

Ram­pling and Byrne play the noir cou­ple in I, Anna (MA15+, Trans­mis­sion, 93min, $34.95). Ram­pling’s Anna is a mid­dle-aged di­vorcee whose dat­ing ad­ven­tures come to a dis­as­trous halt when one of her pre­sumed con­quests ends in a messy blood-stained death. Byrne’s Bernie is the trou­bled, low-key cop track­ing her first for a ren­dezvous and then, as it hap­pens, as a sus­pect. The film doesn’t pro­vide the pace to make the duo as noir-ish as Bog­art and Ba­call, though. Their adult and be­liev­able dia­logue is not quite as wry or snappy as in con­ven­tional noir but their stilted en­coun­ters lead to a con­vinc­ing love story.

Good noir tends to need a strong lead cou­ple; or it did in its grand pe­riod in the 40s and 50s. Mod­ern noir feels more stylis­tic than sub­stan­tial. Moody shots in LA’s late af­ter­noon sun and a mum­bled dia­logue over the barrel of a gun seem to do the trick.

Southcombe’s main achieve­ment, be­yond the leads (and great per­for­mances from Ed­die Marsan and Hay­ley Atwell), is how he and cinematographer Ben Smithard cap­ture Lon­don and its soul­less Bar­bican tower blocks.

Southcombe’s script doesn’t al­ways add up but, with this look and the lead duo, he’s twothirds of the way to­wards a solid mod­ern noir.

Warner (301min, $39.95)

(M) Para­mount (94min, $39.99)

(PG) Univer­sal Sony (692min, $44.95)

(M) Dis­ney (114min, $29.99)

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