The veterans kick it up a notch

A flinty, observant tale of Third World immigrants dealing with the harsh realities of modern London, “Dirty Pretty Things” returns director Stephen Frears to the milieu of his 1980s’ successes “My Beautiful Launderette” and “Sammy and Rosie Get Laid.”

But he only grudgingly admits to a connection between the three films; when asked why he revisited this subject matter after nearly two decades of working on more mainstream fare including “The Grifters” (1990), “Mary Reilly” (1996) and “High Fidel-ity” (2000), his response is a growled “I’m not a bloody psychiatrist, am I?”

He prefers not to dwell on why he is taken by a specific project; he’s just “grateful to find something that fires my imagination.” What attracted him to Steven Knight’s script about illegal immigrants working at a third-rate hotel was that it was “a story that’s never been filmed before.”

That comment reflects the haunted realities of Okwe, a doctor in his native Nigeria (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Senae, (Audrey Tautou, 180 degrees away from her carefree turn in “Amelie”) a young Turkish woman with dreams of moving to New York. Their jobs — bellmen, maids and janitors — are manned by “the people you never see.”

About a year of rewriting was needed to focus the chaste love story that beats within the underworld of harshly lit cafes, taw-dry sweatshops, bedsits and constant worries about discovery by the authorities. “It was half a great script,” he says, “but then it went down a wrong turn.”

Previous Oscar noms: Director, “The Grifters” (1990)

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