The creepy Venice movie is alive and well and living in Paris. In the crisp and entertaining “Anna Oz,” veteran Polanski scripter Gerard Brach and young helmer Eric Rochant have stitched together a pleasantly scary film, full of surprise and threat and intellectual respectability, set simultaneously in the two cities. Accomplished pic should do well in Europe and on cable, with limited North American distribution a possibility.
Brach is in fine form with a script that takes a bit of claustrophobia from “The Tenant” and a bit of peeling paint from “Repulsion,” yet keeps a refreshingly contempo feel. Story opens on the lovely Anna Oz (Charlotte Gainsbourg), a young woman living in a baroque Venetian palace with her athletic , bumbling brother (Gregori Derangere) and a mysterious older man, Marcello (Gerard Lanvin), who may be their father. But this Venetian Anna, it turns out, is just a dream imagined by an Anna Oz living in Paris.
The Paris Anna (also Gainsbourg) is picked up for questioning by the police for a crime she cannot remember having witnessed. She becomes more and more troubled by her intrusive imagination once it becomes obvious that the Venetian Anna of her dreams wants to do away with her.
As Paris Anna’s loving boyfriend (Sami Bouajila) tries to calm her before she slides further into madness or to suicide. Venetian Anna’s surroundings also become fraught with peril. She realizes Marcello is involved in a disgusting trade in human eyes, a neat counterpoint to the horrible crime Paris Anna suddenly recalls seeing. Both Annas head toward what seems like certain doom.
The offbeat mix of spoiled rich kid in Venice and earnest working girl in Paris seems to suit the chameleon like talents of Gainsbourg. Also welcome back is Bouajila, an Arab French thesp who showed immense promise in Karim Dridi’s ethnic Marseille drama “Bye-Bye.” His Marc, Paris Anna’s befuddled b.f., touches all the right notes of contemporary Parisian hipness.
Cinematographer Pierre Lhomme and production designer Thierry Francois earn kudos for concocting a breathtaking, dreamlike Venice of crimson and gold. Even when Gainsbourg is given nothing to do, it’s a pleasure to watch her walk around her Venetian palace in Claire Fraisse’s costumes, the sensuality only heightening the creepiness. Steve Turre’s music is effective, as are the various Latino numbers that punctuate the Paris half of the story.