The Inner Life of Martin Frost



CLAP Films, Salty Features, Alma Films, Tornisol Films

NEW YORK -- Novelist-screenwriter Paul Auster's second movie as a director is disappointing. This story about a writer and his feminine muse often is pretentious, and the exposition relies much too heavily on voice-over. "The Inner Life of Martin Frost," which opened New York's New Directors, New Films Festival, might have difficulty picking up distribution.

Auster tells a middlebrow tale of bourgeois angst. Martin Frost (David Thewlis), a successful New York-based novelist, moves into his friends' cottage in rural Portugal to write a book. His literary solitude is interrupted by the arrival of the effortlessly seductive Claire (Irene Jacob), who claims to be a friend of the owners. But it soon turns out that she actually is Frost's muse, whom he has written into existence. Problems arise when Frost falls in love with Claire, who must return to her mystical netherworld when he has finished his novel.

The script, which drops the names of philosophers Berkeley and Kant and makes references to the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, tries hard to impress. It manages to come across as heavy-handed as a result. But the main problem is the director's rudimentary knowledge of film grammar. The shots are simply too pedestrian to tell the story in an interesting way.

Thewlis puts in a typically gruff performance, though it's down to "The Sopranos' " Michael Imperioli to brighten things up. He plays a plumber with literary aspirations and gives the film some well-needed brio -- even if his character is often the butt of some snobbish jokes.

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