A brave but doomed attempt to revive the art of pure physical comedy, the willfully eccentric, practically dialogue-free, "Iceberg" sets itself a high standard with an opening 15 minutes of the most delicious slapstick, but thereafter only a few moments of gentle surrealism and the occasional poetic image justify the ride, with only 10% of the pic's potential laughs evident above the surface.

A brave but doomed attempt to revive the art of pure physical comedy, the willfully eccentric, practically dialogue-free, “Iceberg” sets itself a high standard with an opening 15 minutes of the most delicious slapstick, but thereafter only a few moments of gentle surrealism and the occasional poetic image justify the ride, with only 10% of the pic’s potential laughs evident above the surface. Skillfully played and lensed with a distinctive, pic has a brightly-colored pop aesthetic all its own and an engagingly innocent air that could find it a home in territories friendly to goofy, circus-style giggles.

Fiona (Fiona Gordon) runs a fast-food outlet, and accidentally locks herself in the freezer room overnight. Discovered barely alive the following morning, she returns home to find her husband, Julian (Dominique Abel), and kids (Ophelie Rousseau and Robin Goupil)have been blissfully unaware of her absence. All of this is beautifully-turned, visually witty stuff.

Annoyed by her family’s reaction and finding herself newly attracted to cold things, Fiona leaps aboard a frozen goods truck, which is about where things start to come unstuck.

She ends up with a group of old-timers in a coastal town, where she comes across Rene the Sailor (Philippe Martz), a long-haired, brutish-looking mute with a small boat that Fiona figures will take her to the iceberg she’s decided she wants to live on. Off they go, with Julian in desperate pursuit.

Gordon, and Abel are both gawky types who look perfectly plausible as a couple, and their bodies’ comic potential is fully exploited, as when Fiona gets caught up in a bed sheet and creates all kinds of wonderful shapes with it.

As long as the pic is set in universally recognizable locations, things are fine. But there’s only so much wit to be mined from three people stranded alone on a boat at sea.

The charm of the characters generates a few sweet moments, but the childlike too often spills over into the merely childish, with too many retro gags involving people falling on top of one another. The main running joke, Julian’s obsessive pursuit of the boat across the sea, is constructed as a series of awkwardly timed jokes that gather no real momentum. Full-frontal nudity early in the film is discordant with the general innocence of the humor.

The Iceberg

Belgium

Production

A Courage mon Amour Films/RTBF/FAG Prod. production. (International sales: MK2, Paris). Produced by Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon. Directed, written by Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon, Bruno Romy.

Crew

Camera (color), Sebastian Koeppel; editor, Sandrine Deegen; music, Jacques Luley; art director, Laura Couderc; sound (Dolby Digital), Fred Meert, Christian Monheim. Reviewed at San Sebastian Film Festival (Zabaltegi), Sept. 17, 2005. Running time: 84 MIN.

With

Fiona Gordon, Dominique Abel, Philippe Martz, Ophelie Rousseau, Robin Goupil.
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