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Tuvalu

Reviewed By Scott Weinberg
Posted 01/08/03 14:32:34

"A thinking man's brain candy."
4 stars (Worth A Look)

Since I'm such an astute (and lazy) movie critic, I find that I can sometimes write my reviews while watching stuff on TV. That plan lasted for about 15 seconds once "Tuvalu" started rolling.

Fully indescribable, but close to a pastiche of Marc Caro & Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Charlie Chaplin, Fritz Lang, Terry Gilliam, and Mother Goose, Tuvalu is (despite a myriad of clear influences) like nothing you've ever seen before. (And if you're a fan of every name I just mentioned above, then you should immediately start searching for this title.)

Filmed in Bulgaria by a German director and an international cast & crew, Tuvalu is one of those 'out there' abstract movies that can easily 'mean' different things to each viewer. But here's what I saw: Anton is the slow (yet technically proficient) son of a blind old man and a sweet old mother with a button fixation. The family runs a stunningly worn-down bath house, a setting that couldn't possibly be more colorfully (and bizarrely) presented; the walls flow with leaking water, ceilings crumble and splash into the expansive swimming pool, the paint crawls off of every wall, and the pipeworks is an insane plumber's worst nightmare.

Anton's nasty brother Gregor repeatedly tries to sabotage the bath house, in hopes of turning a tidy profit for himself - and then there's the lovely newcomer Eva, who may be Anton's new girlfriend or she may be a shameless two-faced saboteur.

If all of that sounds like a traditional plot narrative, that's just because I'm an artless and literal bastard who sucks the marrow out of anything non-linear. But Tuvalu absolutely hypnotized this Michael Bay fan, and it's a flick I eagerly anticipate revisiting. (It may be noteworthy that the film contains about 30 words of dialogue in total, particularly if you're right now wondering if this is a movie you have to "read".)

Much like Caro's Delicatessen, this is a movie that sucks you in with a fascinating visual style (black & white here, pale blue monochrome there, sped-up moments of silliness here, wet and quivery moments of weirdness there, etc.), but you quickly discover that there's more than just a fancy light show here.

Impressed with myself as I was to decipher a plot here, I was further pleased to glean a few symbols and metaphors and brainy stuff like that. The destructive and faceless machinery of modern technology overwhelming the quaint comforts of "Mom and Pop" industry and all that Film School stuff. But don't let that scare you off. Tuvalu is like watching a Dali painting brought to life...and who wouldn't want to see that?

Some movies trumpet their secrets from on high; movies like Tuvalu ask to be felt first and scrutinized later.

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