Bumpy drama is a bit of a grind

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Film Reviews -

comes with its own ever-soslightly naughty floor­show. Jug­glers would have done equally as well. So would con­tor­tion­ists.

The women, all vet­eran bur­lesque per­form­ers, re­veal im­pres­sive re­serves of char­ac­ter and earthy zest. Sadly, their mun­dane di­a­logue, as is of­ten the case when An­glo­phone char­ac­ters speak in for­eign­lan­guage films, comes across as oddly dis­tant and crim­i­nally un­der-di­rected.

The good news is that Amal­ric finds space to cre­ate an­other of his en­gag­ing, su­per­nat­u­rally sleazy out­siders. Wear­ing an ab­surd col­lar and a deeply un­nec­es­sary mous­tache, he flings equal de­grees of poignancy and hope­less­ness about the screen. Play­ing a for­mer tele­vi­sion pro­ducer who has be­come hope­lessly es­tranged from his fam­ily, Amal­ric rails and flails with a sin­cer­ity that few other con­tem­po­rary thes­pi­ans can man­age.

It’s just a shame that, on this oc­ca­sion, this fine ac­tor didn’t have an equally tal­ented artist be­hind the cam­era. Weirdly, the Jury at Cannes thought dif­fer­ently and awarded Amal­ric the best di­rec­tor prize. Don’t do that, guys. It will only en­cour­age him. HUH? WEIRD, far­ci­cal, broad – one might as well at­tempt to re­view a bi­cy­cle pump on these pages as this Pol­ish bodice-rip­per. Sluby Panien­skie (Maiden’s Vows) is an 1832 mock-heroic poem by Alek­sander Fre­dro, adapted here into a racy pan­tomime with a sel­f­re­flex­ive, con­tem­po­rary twist.

At least we think that’s what the film-mak­ers were go­ing for. How else might one ac­count for the sud­den cut­aways to the prin­ci­pals sip­ping cof­fee from paper cups, or the fre­quent ap­pear­ance of mo­bile phones in a pre-Vic­to­rian rom­com?

The plot, when it isn’t be­ing wildly anachro­nis­tic, is old by ge­o­log­i­cal stan­dards. Two 19th-cen­tury babes swear off men just as their fa­ther ar­ranges hus­bands for them. And who could blame them? The witty, stu­pen­dously beau­ti­ful Clara (Marta Zmuda-Trze­bi­a­towska) sim­ply can’t abide the over­bear­ing af­fec­tions of her in­tended, a man-boy named Al­bin who makes The Hulk look ma­ture and re­strained. Her timid sis­ter (Edith Ol­szowka) is lum­bered with a vis­it­ing War­saw dandy who can’t keep his eyes open when she speaks. Shenani­gans soon fol­low.

Some­where in the mu­sic hall com­ings and go­ings, things seem to work out for ev­ery­body concerned. Frankly, it’s hard to tell. Un­like, say, Michael Win­ter­bot­tom’s sim­i­larly themed A Cock and Bull Story, there are no clear in­di­ca­tors to de­note shifts be­tween diegetic ac­tion and whis­pered asides.

The play­ers oc­ca­sion­ally adopt the el­e­gant oc­to­syl­la­bles of the source ma­te­rial and pro­duce the same dra­matic rhythms as Pride and Prej­u­dice. They are equally likely to ogle naked ladies and demon­strate uses for a cham­ber pot. We can’t imag­ine that Austen fans will ap­prove of the uri­nat­ing or the whor­ing, roar­ing ro­man­tic hero, but Benny Hill fans might dig it.

Amer­i­can ex­ot­ica: Linda Mar­rac­cini as Dirty Mar­tini in On Tour

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