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Closed Book, A


Stars: Tom Conti, Daryl Hannah, Miriam Margolyes, Elaine Paige, Simon MacCorkindale

Director: Raoul Ruiz

Prolific Chilean director Ruiz (more usually billed as Raul) manages quite a feat in this chiller, in that it can be tedious and unsettling almost at the same time.

Reclusive, hard-cursing author Sir Paul (Conti), blinded in a car crash four years earlier, advertises for someone to computer-generate his autobiography. The ad is answered by Jane Ryder (Hannah), an attractive blonde in her late thirties, whom he requires to live in five days a week.

As soon as we see Jane pick up an old teddy bear and pull its button eye out, we're aware that something is Up. For a while, though, things go smoothly, despite an edgy relationship, and the pair are left alone when Sir Paul's housekeeper (Margolyes) has to leave for an indefinite period to tend to a sick husband.

But when Jane tells Sir Paul her top is red when it's black and burns his priceless books on the fire instead of logs (can't he smell the difference?), we can tell that the perhaps not-so-noble knight is in trouble.

In such a relatively short film, it's perhaps not so surprising that the action is prolonged when a Tory canvasser (Paige), rather too conveniently scared by Sir Paul, is panicked into falsely confirming some of the 'fake' news headlines Jane's been feeding him. But what's the point in this, or in Jane giving him false information about what people are wearing?

No, the structure of the film depends on it packing more of a wallop at the end than it does, and Conti's actions in the last reel are not convincing. At the same time, the sense of unease is well conveyed throughout. Conti comes on too strong at times, but Hannah's decent performance keeps the suspense largely on track.

David Quinlan

UK 2009. UK Distributor: Kaleidoscope. Colour.
85 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 14 Feb 2010