A French Farce on Ice

Belgian cult novelist Jean-Philippe Toussaint's The Ice Rink, a droll and breezy but uneven comedy about the mishaps of a Parisian director as he shoots his new flick, is marked by a wryly heartfelt affection for the process of filmmaking. Its slim plot boils down to the protag's race against the clock to get his picture in the can in time for the Venice Film Festival. Our auteur (Tom Novembre) has to contend with a Lithuanian hockey team unaccustomed to the rigors of retakes, a temperamental leading lady who holds up production while she balls her egomaniacal Hollywood costar, and a klutzy French crew who get in everyone's way as they shoot a doc about the making of the film within the film.

A number of the gags are on target—in one memorably loopy turn, clueless Novembre lectures the Lithuanian hockey bit players (who don't understand a word of French) about Bresson's theories on the cinema. The Ice Rink is, however, plastered with pratfalls, and the amount of fun to be had watching people land on the ice on their butts is fairly limited. The film's strong suit is to be found in the interplay of its spirited international cast, including The Evil Dead's hunky Bruce Campbell, perfect as the meathead from Tinseltown, and Dolores Chaplin (granddaughter of Charlie), fresh-faced and seductive as his ditsy prima donna. Two irresistible veteran French stars in supporting roles, Jean-Pierre Cassel (the doddering rink owner) and luminous Marie-France Pisier (producer of the film within the film) are icing on the cake.

 
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