Outside a festival première of his latest movie, celebrated '60s actor Cesar Valentin (O'Toole) is shot by agitated fan Brian Smith (Firth), who is in turn killed by a falling spotlight. Transported across a Styx-like river to a purgatorial hotel, they join a variety of celebrities whose continuing occupancy (and quality of accommodation) depends on how well their mortal fame is holding up. Einstein plays violin while Lassie sniffs around, and Hemingway rubs shoulders with such lesser immortals as Horace T Merrick (Stephens), famous for refusing the Nobel Prize for literature. So while O'Toole probes his assassin's obscure motives, Firth sustains his fit of pique and concentrates on pursuing the beautiful, amnesiac Bianca (Trintignant). Although the pacing is a shade too measured, the striking hotel setting and deft plot twists hold the attention throughout, especially in the weirdly funny finale, a game show lottery in which contestants are given the chance to return to the real world. Classily shot by veteran British cinematographer Alex Thomson, filmed in English by Czech director Votocek, this gentle allegory is slyly funny and quietly satisfying.
Cast and crew
|Screenwriter:||Herman Koch, Otakar Votocëk|