Kingdom of Skinflints

In "Kingdom of Skinflints," a silent film hero in "The Thief of Bagdad" mold is sprung from the screen via a creative accident and finds himself in the present -- and in B&W. Billing itself as "The First Silent Film of the Third Millennium," this sincere and winsome oddity boasts considerable invention and charm.

With:
With: Gael Bordier, Charles Aivar, Virginie Aster, Patrick Athenor, Kamel Bouzid, Lionel Chevalier, Miguel Escobar, Bernardo Garcia, Delphine Lalizout, Lionel Pariente.

In “Kingdom of Skinflints,” a silent film hero in “The Thief of Bagdad” mold is sprung from the screen via a creative accident and finds himself in the present — and in B&W. Billing itself as “The First Silent Film of the Third Millennium,” this sincere and winsome oddity boasts considerable invention and charm. Although pic sometimes feels like an exceptionally good student film, the experiment is an almost complete success, thanks to an adorable lead perf by Gael Bordier and a delightful score.

Set in the photogenic countryside and within Paris, story is told entirely from the hero’s p.o.v. A Candide in an Aladdin costume, and circumscribed by his limited understanding of the modern world, our hero falls in and out of trouble and adventures, relying on the kindness of strangers.

After title cards with “………..” on them establish that our hero can’t talk, and a test with headphones in a police station proves he can’t hear, his experiences are divided up into deftly interconnected episodes. These are signaled by intertitles bearing the names of real movies (“A Sunday in the Country,” “Love Story,” etc.) that happen to describe the action.

Central running gag concerns our illiterate hero’s puppy love for a female robot adorning a pinball machine. When he learns that five franc coins bring her to “life,” he amusingly discards all other cash — including huge banknotes — convinced that only five franc pieces are worth having.

In addition to being a purely entertaining narrative, pic has a strong subtext about the plight of the homeless and the difficulty some folks face when trying to fit in with societal codes. Dream passages featuring “The Bride of the Pin Bot” made flesh are particularly charming, as are opening and closing segs in color. Only a shoot-out in a grocery store comes across as too extreme in this diverting, mildly melancholy tale told entirely with images, piano music and occasional ambient sound.

Kingdom of Skinflints

France

Production: An E.D. Distribution release of a TABB production. Produced by Thierry Berthier. Directed by Michel Vignaud. Screenplay, Marc Benedetti, Thierry Berthier, Gael Bordier, Vignaud.

Crew: Camera (color/B&W), Jerome Arthuis; editor, Bernardo Garcia; music, Francois Staal; art director, Miguel Escobar; sound, Fabrice Conesa Alcoela. Reviewed at Espace Saint-Michel, Paris, April 27, 2001. Running time: 83 MIN.

With: With: Gael Bordier, Charles Aivar, Virginie Aster, Patrick Athenor, Kamel Bouzid, Lionel Chevalier, Miguel Escobar, Bernardo Garcia, Delphine Lalizout, Lionel Pariente.

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