×

Shallow Grave

Blighty's new wave of knock-'em-dead filmers has a banner to march under with "Shallow Grave," a tar-black comedy that zings along on a wave of visual and scripting inventiveness. Film Four Intl. looks set to rack up healthy sales on this feature which will delight buff audiences and has the potential to break out into wider markets, too.

With:
Juliet Miller - Kerry Fox David Stevens - Christopher Eccleston Alex Law - Ewan McGregor Hugo - Keith Allen Detective-Inspector - Ken Stott Detective-Constable - John Hodge

Blighty’s new wave of knock-’em-dead filmers has a banner to march under with “Shallow Grave,” a tar-black comedy that zings along on a wave of visual and scripting inventiveness. Film Four Intl. looks set to rack up healthy sales on this first feature of English TV director Danny Boyle, which will delight buff audiences and has the potential to break out into wider markets, too.

Reaction at its world preem screening in the Cannes market was hot, with many questioning why pic wasn’t in any of the fest’s sections, despite having been submitted for both competition and Directors Fortnight.

Main surprise is that “Grave” manages to sustain its oddball humor and theatrical style without depending on non-stop eye-whacking tricks. First script by Glasgow-based doctor John Hodge (who cameos as a cop) keeps springing surprises until the final shot, and Boyle’s direction, though often hyper, manages to serve up an intelligent movie without sacrificing narrative drive or reducing the actors to characterless pawns.

Story, set in modern-day Scotland, revolves around a trio of unlikely friends sharing a spacious top-floor apartment. Juliet (Kerry Fox) is a seemingly levelheaded nurse, David (Christopher Eccleston) is a studiously boring accountant in a stuffy firmand Alex (Ewan McGregor) is a wild-side journalist on a local rag.

From their first appearance, grilling applicants for a fourth lodger, it’s clear they’ve all got several screws loose. The lodger problem is solved when Juliet takes a shine to the rough-looking, mysterious Hugo (Keith Allen, the psycho in “Beyond Bedlam”), who soon takes up residence. A short time later, Hugo is found dead in bed, his drawer stuffed with drugs and a suitcase stuffed with money.

After shilly-shallying over what to do, the trio decide to chop up the cadaver, bury the bits and keep the loot — a sequence that sets the tone for the pic’s several grisly comic set pieces.

Finale in the apartment is a real tour de force of black humor, with multiple double-crosses and twists up to the final fadeout.

Boyle’s background in theater before moving over to TV (“Inspector Morse”) shows in the pic’s exaggerated but actorly approach. In look and feel, however, this is pure moviemaking, with a seamless blend of production design, music, editing, sound and lensing.

Buffs will note stylistic parallels to the Coen brothers’ early pix, especially “Raising Arizona,” but there’s a trove of others for those wanting to make connections. (Cinephiles can also dine on the fact that producer Andrew Macdonald is related to Emeric Pressburger.)

Playing and casting are strong down the line. Of the central trio, Kiwi actress Fox rates special praise for her disarming portrayal of everyday madness.

Among the tiptop behind-the-camera credits, production designer Kave Quinn’s superb set of the off-center apartment is a constant delight, with its color-coded rooms and its play with light. Reported budget was a mere T1 million ($ 1.5 million), with every cent up on the screen.

Shallow Grave

British

Production: A Film Four Intl. presentation in association with the Glasgow Film Fund of a Figment Film production. (Intl. sales: FFI, London.) Produced by Andrew Macdonald. Exec producer, Allan Scott. Directed by Danny Boyle. Screenplay, John Hodge.

Crew: Camera (color), Brian Tufano; editor, Masahiro Hirakubo; music, Simon Boswell; production design, Kave Quinn; costume design, Cate Karin; sound (Dolby), Colin Nicolson; assistant director, Ian Madden. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (market), May 16, 1994. Running time: 91 min.

With: Juliet Miller - Kerry Fox David Stevens - Christopher Eccleston Alex Law - Ewan McGregor Hugo - Keith Allen Detective-Inspector - Ken Stott Detective-Constable - John Hodge

More Film

  • 'Sink or Swim,' 'Custody' Lead Race

    'Sink or Swim,' 'Custody' Lead Race for France's Cesar Awards

    French actor-turned-director Gilles Lellouche’s “Sink or Swim” and Xavier Legrand’s feature debut “Custody” lead the race for this year’s Cesar Awards, France’s equivalent of the Oscars, with 10 nominations each, including best picture and best director. “Sink or Swim” (“Le Grand Bain” in France), a star-driven dramedy about a men’s synchronized swimming team, world-premiered at [...]

  • Face to Face with German Films

    Face to Face with German Films Unveils the Six ‘Faces’ of 2019 (EXCLUSIVE)

    Teutonic promotional organization German Films has announced that its annual initiative supporting German filmmaking internationally, Face to Face With German Films, will focus on actors and actresses as the campaign enters its fourth year. Six of Germany’s leading thesps – Maria Dragus, Christian Friedel, Luise Heyer, Jonas Nay, Jördis Triebel and Fahri Yardim – will [...]

  • (L to R) VIGGO MORTENSEN and

    'Green Book' Lands Post-Oscars Theatrical Release in China

    Fresh off Monday’s news that it had picked up five Academy Award nominations, best picture favorite “Green Book” is set for more good luck. The film will hit Chinese theaters on March 1, the first weekend after the Oscars, which fall on Feb 24, Alibaba Pictures announced on its official social media account. The film [...]

  • Fan Bingbing

    Chinese Celebrities Pay $1.7 Billion in Back Taxes Following Fan Bingbing Scandal

    Chinese film and TV stars have paid some $1.7 billion (RMB11.7 billion) of additional taxes, following the mid-2018 scandal surrounding actress Fan Bingbing. The figure was announced Tuesday by China’s State Tax Administration. Chinese authorities launched a probe into the taxation affairs of the entertainment sector in October. Companies and individuals were asked to examine [...]

  • Yalitza Aparicio as Cleo, Marco Graf

    Film News Roundup: AMC, Regal to Leave 'Roma' Out of Best Picture Showcases

    In today’s film news roundup, “Roma” will not be in the best picture showcases at AMC and Regal, “Jimi Hendrix: Electric Church” gets a release and SAG-AFTRA’s David White has a new appointment. ‘ROMA’ SPURNED AMC Theatres and Regal Cinemas are leaving Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma” out of their upcoming annual showings of the contenders for [...]

  • First Look at SAG Awards' Cuban

    First Look at SAG Awards' Cuban-Inspired After-Party (EXCLUSIVE)

    Celebrities at this year’s SAG Awards won’t have to go far for some tropical fun. Sunday’s annual post-show gala, hosted by People magazine for the 23rd year, is set to feature a Cuban-themed party space adjacent to the Shrine Auditorium. “We’re kind of going back to more of a thematic element. I have some close [...]

  • Paul DavidsonVariety Big Data Summit Presented

    Listen: The Orchard's Paul Davidson on Surviving Sundance Bidding Wars

    Hollywood heads to Park City, Utah this week in the hopes of finding the next big Sundance Film Festival breakout. Paul Davidson, executive vice president of film and television at The Orchard, plans to be in the thick of it. In today’s edition of Variety‘s “Strictly Business” podcast, Davidson opens up about The Orchard’s strategy [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content