(SCREENED AT THE 2004 PALM SPRINGS INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL.) A lethally boring film, SALTIMBANK is every foreign-film stereotype rolled into one neat, tedious package. It is nearly plotless; it features colorless characters who do little but talk at one another endlessly; it has no dramatic tension to speak of. I dare anyone to watch this movie and remember it the next day.I have more tolerance for this sort of film than the average moviegoer. I can deal with thin plots and low-key minimalism; I can even deal with the French. But for God's sake, give me something I can grab onto. Sex, humor, cool visuals, whatever--but put something on the screen that an intelligent human being might conceivably find interesting. There's just nothing here, save perhaps some reasonably erudite dialogue about Art, which isn't nearly enough to make this worth watching.
SALTIMBANK has to do with the random goings-on that attend rehearsals for a theatrical production of Racine's Esther. Here's how the Palm Springs press book describes it: "Saltimbank is a comedy of characters, a tribute to the facts, gestures and insignificant stories that fill our lives." In other words, nothing happens. And the problem with comedies of characters is that they should be funny, or try to be, every now and then at least.
With no strong central character (no strong characters at all, really), a murkily defined storyline, and an complete lack of narrative momentum, the movie is about as unfocused as any you'll see this year. Characters are introduced so perfunctorily that you'd swear they forgot the first reel; and the film ends so abruptly that you'd swear they forgot the last. And like most French films, even a lot of the good ones, it is visually empty.Which leaves us with an altogether unmemorable filmic experience. Truly, go off and do something else for ninety minutes of your life.