Martin Frost was originally conceived by writer-director Paul Auster as a short film, and he would have done better to keep it that way: What starts out as a clever exploration of consciousness quickly descends into underplotted folly. What kernel of story there is concerns Martin (David Thewlis), the eponymous writer (and Auster stand-in, natch), who has retreated to the countryside after finishing his fourth novel. His solitude is interrupted by Claire (Irene Jacob), a pneumatic muse assigned by the heavens to tease, seduce, and fuck a new story out of him. Aside from this dismayingly retro conception of the female role in creative endeavor, Auster's hastily sketched idea of a muse emporium in the sky makes no sense. (Does everyone get one? Where was Claire when Martin was writing his first four books?) Martin Frost oozes with the austere sense of foreboding and metaphysical pyrotechnics that make Auster's writing such a treat, but the inscrutable last third of the movie lays out a textbook argument for why not to cast your 19-year-old daughter as a muse with "the voice of an angel": Sophie Auster falls flat, and her chanteuse-like rendition of "Polly Wolly Doodle" killed that song for me forever.
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