Transposed in William Boyd's adaptation from Peru to New Orleans in 1951, Mario Vargas Llosa's novel has lost much of its flavour, but enough of its Chinese-box trickery remains. Aunt Julia (Hershey) is the woman with a past who casts a spell over her puppyish nephew Martin (Reeves). The Scriptwriter is the mercurial and possibly dangerous Pedro Carmichael (Falk), dramaturge of the nail-biting radio schlock-opera 'Kings of the Garden District'. With the mad, moustache-curling genius at the helm, the ratings soar - but why the sniping obsession with Albanians, more virulent with each episode? The film ends up rather uneven in its attempt to balance the demands of the love interest (lukewarm) and the spiralling lunacy of the soap. But it has a lot going for it in its playfulness and performances (including a number of guest cameos in the serial). Amiel may not get to ring the reality-fantasy changes as ingeniously as he did in The Singing Detective, but a good time was clearly had by all.