“Limited Edition” is a curious, occasionally engrossing drama highlighted by a memorable performance by Terence Stamp as an enigmatic, emotionally troubled British publishing executive. The dialogue jumps back and forth from English to French as the story hops between the literary scenes of London and Paris, and the bilingual mix will make the pic a tough sell internationally; restrained, often intellectual tone will also limit wider appeal for debut directorial outing by well-known French TV host and producer Bernard Rapp.
Edward (Stamp), who works at a small London publishing house, receives a new manuscript from his old friend Nicolas (Daniel Mesguich). The French-lingo book, “Il Faut Aimer,” is set in Tunisia in 1960, around the time Edward and Nicolas first met.
Edward is mighty impressed by the tome and is surprised by the depth of emotion in the novel, since Nicolas is best known as an author of trashy commercial fiction. Nicolas’ book recounts events that took place in Tunisia 35 years before, including the rape of a Tunisian woman, and Edward immediately recognizes the character as a woman he fell in love with at the time.
After she was raped, she committed suicide, and the trauma of the tragic love affair drove Edward, then a budding novelist, to renounce fiction writing once and for all. Reading Nicolas’ chronicle of the rape, he becomes convinced that his old friend was the rapist. As he mulls over the revelation, Edward slowly begins to plot his decidedly literary revenge.
Stamp is perfect as the classic repressed, old-boys-network Brit, and his use of ultra-laconic, dry wit in his conversation provides some welcome comic relief. As Nicolas, Mesguich goes from frosty obnoxiousness to all-out hysteria without ever really bringing the character to life.
Rapp and Richard Morgieve’s script attempts to provide a snapshot of a certain slice of British life, but the writers seem unable to go much further than rather tired cliches based on old stereotypes of stiff-upper-lip Brit culture. In the end, Rapp doesn’t succeed in turning this literary whodunit into a satisfying big-screen entertainment, a big part of the problem being that so much of the plot centers on the printed page.
Cinematographer Romain Winding provides images of London, Paris and Tunisia, but much of the action takes place in drab offices. Other tech credits are fine.