Reviewed on videocassette, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Nov. 9, 1999. (In Fort Lauderdale Film Festival.) Running time: 77 MIN.

Reviewed on videocassette, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Nov. 9, 1999. (In Fort Lauderdale Film Festival.) Running time: 77 MIN.

With: Alan Cox, Natasha Lyonne, Angeline Ball, Rachel True, Armin Shimerman, Ian McNeice, Jeremy Sisto, Garrett Wang, Dana Lee.

Writer-director Evan Oppenheimer does just enough with a modestly clever premise to guarantee “The Auteur Theory” will generate some knowing smiles — and a few shocks of recognition — among film fest attendees. Overall, however, small-budget indie is too inside-baseball in its satirical swipes to reach mainstream audiences, and not consistently funny enough to have even niche-market potential. At best, the pic might receive limited exposure on campus and rep-house circuits before homevid release.

Wispy plot revolves around a Brit documentarian (Alan Cox) who’s fortuitously present at a student short film competition when the directors start turning up dead. As the body count increases, a la “Ten Little Indians,” Oppenheimer offers all-too-brief snippets of the students’ pretentious handiwork. (Best bit: a Hindu version of “Pulp Fiction” in which a hit man quotes the Bhagavad-Gita to an intended victim.) Humor is strictly hit and miss, with long stretches of dead space and desperate vamping between the howlers. Even so, it’s hard to be too critical of any comedy in which a cinema-savvy police detective quips, “Maybe I’m just a cop who fond Tarkovsky’s last films too dry and pedantic, but …”

The Auteur Theory

Production

A Theoretical Films production. Produced by Holly Sorenson. Directed, written by Evan Oppenheimer.

Crew

Camera (FotoKem color), Ruurd M. Fenenga Jr.; editors, Todd Busch, John Axelrad; music, Joshua Kramon; production designer, Yvonne Kendall.

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