Thursday, April 24, 2008

Martha Fiennes retrospective - CHROMOPHOBIA

"Well, I'm seeing a woman with a mustache about my parenting flaws and my residual bulimia. And I'm doing autogenic self-hypnosis to try to keep the low self esteem at bay. I'm getting back to work and - But anyway, it's just really exciting for me at the moment because I am beginning to find the real me."

Writer-director Martha Fiennes throws up a rich portrait of supremely successfully, but deceitful and narcissistic Londoners in her second feature film, CHROMOPHOBIA. Their vices vary from a sort of desperate, void-filling materialism to sexual exploitation of the worst kind. Perhaps their most over-riding flaw is their self-deception. No-one really thinks they're a bad person, do they? Their world of material ease but self-inflicted paranoia is exposed when a tabloid journalist exploits a drunken indiscretion by one of his best friends. Well, it's a savage world.

Martha Fiennes' film is beautifully rendered. The over-designed, polished interiors are spot on, as are the rather pathetic problems that obsess our protagonists. Kristin Scott Thomas is particularly good as a sexually frustrated, spend-a-holic wife. But I would have had more time for this film had it not tacked on a rather ludicrous fairy tale romance between a terminally ill "heart-of-gold" Spanish hooker (Penelope Cruz) and an earnest social worker (Rhys Ifans). These characters are cliches, although Ifans makes the best of it. I also rather disliked the final scenes. One of the key characters makes a life decision that belies their earlier moral cowardice and self-involvement. Maybe it could've happened that way. Maybe we can redeem ourselves in moments of crisis. But this turnaround rang false.

CHROMOPHOBIA closed Cannes 2005. It was released in Italy, France and Israel in 2006 and in Spain and the UK in 2007. It is available on DVD.

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