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Manuel de Layet [Celluloid 03.24.15] United Kingdom thriller

There was a bit of a fuss in the news recently about a chimera, the mixing of cellular components from three persons to get a more viable progeny. Well, Snow in Paradise is a lot like that. This is the illegitimate child of A Prophet and Only God Forgives (review), lacking the psychological insight of the former and the passive-aggressive idiocy of the latter and, since it wasn't going to live on its own, some bits of Into the Void were added into the pool.

Tiny bits involving fetishized meth use and the character design of our, for a better kind of word, hero: a junkie lowlife/petty thief with the charisma of dead shrew. Amusingly, like with ITV, I can't remember the name of the main character, here portrayed by Frederick Schmidt, to save my life and had to look it up on IMDb. Nothing against his performance but the character is so blandly stereotyped you can use it as a communion wafer.
There is a truckload of possible angles to this movie, but the one big shortcoming is that none of them is exploited in any meaningful way. Which is irksome to say the least when you're trying to lay it down on paper, and I can't grasp if it's to reflect the “complexities of life” or just shoddy writing.

So what is this all about? Greed and guilt.

The opening scene is our pal Dave taunting hipsters, like a kid trying to annoy fishes in an aquarium, and his ethnic mate preaching to him that there are more important things in life than material things and money, that Allah is all, etc etc you get the gist.

At this point you know already what will follow to the bloody minute:

-Ethnic mate will still follow his pal into a job for the drug dealing uncle, because a hundred quids today is worth more than all the jam tomorrow;

-Dave predictably will steal part of the cocaine package;

-Fast forward to Paki death because, well, Uncle needs to placate the business partners for their loss but Dave is family;

-Then the downward spiral of meth use, hilarious prostitute/single mother-shaped comforter, self hatred, ghostly apparitions and refuge into the last thing he discussed with his late friend, namely religion;

-There hero will find solace and free food in exchange for menial toilet scrubbing, vacuum cleaning tasks.

This kind of canvas could have worked, were there actual ideas intertwined inside. The use of crime, guilt and religion was a stepping stone to some extremely acute psychological essay in Audiard's A Prophet, namely the flaming-star symbolism. In Refn's Only God Forgives there was the meta level of the culture war giving a varnish of purpose to the whole, however thin it was. There is not a hint of anything like that herein. There could have been something on how organizations prey on the dejects of capitalism to bolster their numbers, after all, our Dave going to Islam is a mere placeholder, Ukip or anything else could have done the trick.

Usually I try to answer a simple question when writing here, “Why should you see this one?”, and in that case it's rather hard to answer. It says much about any art piece when you can describe it in one sentence, just using previous works from various authors. I could have stopped at the opening paragraph and you'd still have a good outline of what there's to be expected.

Taken separately the components aren't endearing, the storyline is predictable, the characters while nicely impersonated aren't the most interesting, the few bits of ideas on display quite childish in their treatment and sometimes the audience is taken to be as retarded as the hero.

Yet beautiful cinematography, clever editing and camera work renders that tripe mesmerizing and enjoyable. To misquote far better writer than me, we barely grasp if the hero is alive and dreaming, or dead and remembering.

Recommended Release: A Prophet

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