A Closed Book (15)

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Review byMatthew Turner17/02/2010

Two out of Five stars
Running time: 89 mins

Despite a derivative plot, a frequently nonsensical script and largely terrible performances from its two leads, A Closed Book still manages to be weirdly compelling, without actually being any good.

What's it all about?
Directed by Raoul Ruiz, A Closed Book stars Tom Conti as Sir Paul Napier, a distinguished British author and art critic who has lived a reclusive existence since being blinded in a car accident. Intending to write his autobiography, he employs American Jane Ryder (Daryl Hannah) as his assistant, swayed by her confession that he was “like a God” to her while she was at art school.

Initially, Jane seems perfect, not least because she's largely unruffled by Paul's various eccentricities (such as demanding that the lights be left on, even though he can't see them) and adjusts quickly to the demands of the job. However, when strange things start happening around the house, Paul begins to suspect that Jane may have a sinister agenda of her own.

The Good
The film is weirdly compelling, perhaps because it frequently teeters into so-bad-it's-good territory. Points in its favour include: Conti's ghastly no-eyes make-up (he's not just blind – he has no eyes!); the fact that you're constantly expecting something really bonkers to happen (even though it never does); and the fact that Jane's evil plan seems to consist of locking Paul in a cupboard.

The Bad
A Closed Book clearly has aspirations towards psychological two-handers such as Deathtrap or Sleuth (the cool Michael Caine-starring original, not the terrible Michael Caine-starring remake), but the script veers wildly between intense weirdness (Hannah's two naked scenes are bizarre and nonsensical in equal measure – they hint at a sexual nature to the relationship, but neither scene has any relevance to the plot at all) and a sort of can't-really-be-bothered approach to the plot that completely strips the finale of any impact it might otherwise have had.

The performances are largely terrible – Conti concentrates on Paul's eccentricities while failing to show anything of the vulnerability that might make his character more sympathetic, while Hannah seems to behave completely differently from scene to scene and fails to spark any chemistry with Conti.

Worth seeing?
In short, A Closed Book is one of those enjoyably awful films that's actually quite good fun providing you don't take it remotely seriously. Still terrible, though.

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Content updated: 26/09/2015 07:03

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