Film: Another blonde with the roots showing

Also showing: The Real Blonde. Tom DiCillo (15) Salut Cousin! Merzak Allouache (15) Guy Michael Lindsay-Hogg (18) Star Kid Manny Coto (PG)
Click to follow
Indy Lifestyle Online
Show me a director who puts the catwalk at the centre of a satire and I'll show you a mind that's emptier than a Calvin Klein model's stomach. The melancholy new comedy The Real Blonde has forced me to revise this prejudice slightly. Yes, its main characters are delusional fools - but at least they're all human, and only one of them earns a living wearing baby oil and a rigor mortis smile. That's Tina (Elizabeth Berkley), who turns up for work wearing a plum shiner, which gives the panicky photographer a plum idea: why not transform the common bruise into the latest fashion accessory? The soap-opera actor Bob (Maxwell Caulfield) gets a jolt when he sees the resulting ad campaign. He should: it was his temper which inspired this trend in assault-and-battery chic.

It's haunting moments like this which free Tom DiCillo's thoughtful picture from the confines of his slightly smug screenplay. This man has an eye for an ambiguous image - he makes a simple shot of a model posing with a poodle seem uncomfortably sinister, as though the act signifies the decline of western civilisation. As a writer, he can riff on a wigged- out idea, though he seems unable to resist the pull of a reductive idea, like the metaphor of the "real" blonde, which arises out of Bob's need to find a beauty with natural hair colour. Much of the film concerns the struggle of an unemployed actor (Matthew Modine) to gain a job without forfeiting his integrity, yet his career- saving audition, where he rallies against superficiality, is the one point at which the film itself becomes superficial.

Despite these misjudgements, The Real Blonde still pulls off most of the tricks which exploded in Robert Altman's face in Pret-a-Porter. The spectre of Altman is more pleasantly invoked in DiCillo's nimble interweaving of the film's characters, including Denis Leary as an oversexed self-defence teacher, and Steve Buscemi reprising his uptight director role from DiCillo's earlier Living in Oblivion. But it's Catherine Keener, who has appeared in all of DiCillo's films to date, who effortlessly steals the movie. She's an actress who can make the most innocent line sound at once totally sincere and poisonous with sarcasm; if she hadn't made it as an actress, she would have been a perfect holiday rep.

In the Paris of Salut Cousin!, you're more likely to get duffed over by bullyboys than fall in love in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. This is a perspective you won't find in a Claude Lelouch movie - the city looks drab and forbidding, its suburbs connected as much by the network of racial tensions as by the Metro. Alilo (Gad Elmaleh) has come from Algiers to collect a consignment of clothes, but having lost the supplier's address, he is forced to stay with his runtish cousin Mok (Mess Hattou), and experience first hand the tensions of immigrant life. It's an intelligent if unexceptional picture with photography by Pierre Aim, who shot La Haine and Resurrection Man. His images of Paris suggest a city sleepwalking through an endless, groggy hangover.

I can't imagine where the audience for a film like Guy might be. Perhaps in maximum security psychiatric care. The movie is an experimental exercise, with Vincent D'Onofrio being followed around Hollywood by an anonymous camerawoman with whom he gradually forms a complex relationship.

There are a few witty touches, like when D'Onofrio learns of his director's former subjects ("I want to know how many other men you've filmed!"), but the subjective camera trick was explored more entertainingly fifty years ago in The Lady in the Lake.

Star Kid is a lively children's adventure, in which a young boy (Joseph Mazzello) finds a seven-foot cybersuit. He climbs into it and proceeds to save the universe, all without a thought about how many hours he'll have to spend in analysis because of the experience.

This chirpy film never patronises its audience, and concentrates on only the most pressing issues - like exactly where is the zipper on a seven- foot cybersuit?

Comments