Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Essentially a two hander, Bernardo Bertolucci's latest, co-scripted with his wife, Clare Peploe, is pretentious, snail-paced and frankly dull. Shandurai (Thandie Newton) is a Rome medical student who has escaped a vicious regime in Africa, where her teacher husband languishes in jail. She stays in the basement of a big house, rent free, in exchange for doing the housework. Her benefactor is a reclusive English pianist (David Thewlis), who doesn't go out much and hardly speaks.

In a fit of what seems like emotion, he tells Shandurai, as she dusts the artwork, that he's nuts about her and maybe they should tie the knot. Sensibly, she recoils. She is already married. Didn't he know? Apparently not. He backs off and they circle each other in an odd, uncommunicative way.

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There is a suggestion that he might have been helpful in arranging her husband's release, although, knowing him, it is unlikely. He can't even arrange his own life and appears to be selling the furniture.

Newton gives her best performance to date and is entirely convincing. Thewlis puts on a hangdog look and shuffles about aimlessly. In real life this man would be top of your Avoid At All Costs list. He is more of a concept than a living breather. As for the ending, don't ask. If the mind was engaged, it would boggle.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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An exiled student's relationship with a pianist.
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Director: Bernardo Bertolucci

Writer: Bernardo Bertolucci, Clare Peploe

Starring: Thandie Newton, David Thewlis, Claudio Santamaria, John C. Ojwang, Massimo De Rossi, Cyril Nri, Paul Osul, Veronica Lazar, Gian Franco Mazzoni, Maria Mazetti Di Pietralata, Andrea Quercia

Year: 1998

Runtime: 92 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: Italy


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