Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Pumping New Blood into the British Cinema

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Pumping New Blood into the British Cinema

Article excerpt

Byline: ALEXANDER WALKER

AUDREY TAUTOU, the angelic Pollyanna of the Paris arrondissements in the French romantic comedy Amelie, who always looked sunny-side-up and made Heaven move to bring lovers together, has come down to earth with a bump of raw reality in Stephen Frears's thriller, Dirty Pretty Things, which had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival last night.

To be precise, Tautou has come down to working as a Turkish room-maid in a florid Shoreditch hotel where a freshly-severed human heart is found blocking the lavatory in room 510.

Whatever's going on - and it proves to be a very nasty racket in selling kidneys for passports in London's booming trade in desperate asylum seekers - Tautou proves equal to it.

She's almost unrecognisable as Amelie. An illegal economic migrant herself - "I didn't want to live like my mother" - Tautou's character is less fey than spitfire. Those famous eyes that melted men's hearts in the French comedy now burn with determination to survive amid the ethnic underclass who now fill London's cracked, old mixing bowl to the brim. Fired from her hotel job and forced to work in a rag-trade sweatshop that empties quicker than you could cut a cotton thread at the sound of a police siren, Tautou sinks her teeth into the sensitive parts of her importuning Pakistani employer, then runs for all she's worth to keep a step ahead of the immigration enforcement officers.

The truly original aspect of Stephen Frears's film, however, is not the makeover he's given France's sweetheart. And strictly speaking, Tautou is not the star of the movie, though the producers, Miramax and BBC Films, will sell it on the strength of her name. If so, they will be losing what gives the movie its most striking feature. It is an unmistakably London film that doesn't belong to Londoners - or at least to native-born Brits.

Every character in it, the exploitative as well as the exploited, represents the polyglot, multicultural population of the capital - most of them "illegals" moonlighting in jobs that the Brits won't do and all of them at the mercy of endless insecurity and imminent discovery by the police or immigration officials. …

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