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THE NINE LIVES OF TOMAS KATZ, 2000
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THE NINE LIVES OF TOMAS KATZ,     MOVIE POSTERTHE NINE LIVES OF TOMAS KATZ, 2000
Movie Reviews

Directed by Ben Hopkins
Starring: Thomas Fisher, Ian McNeice, Tony Maudsley, William Keen, Andrew Melville
Review by Stefan Leverton


SYNOPSIS:

Story follows a mysterious alien traveller Tomas Katz (Thomas Fisher) who emerges from a hole beside the M25 and hitches a ride to London in a black cab. A total eclipse of the sun is due later in the day, and, as the stranger sequentially takes on the identity of everyone he meets (taxi driver, government minister, London Underground controller, security guard etc.), chaos spreads in the capital, observed by a blind, rotund Metropolitan Police Chief (Ian McNeice) who senses danger and has connections with the astral plane.

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REVIEW:

The English have a rich history of surreal comedy, and this delightful hidden gem keeps that history alive and well. Born out of a time when the world could’ve easily been turned on its head by the non-event that was the ‘millennium bug’, the film depicts London unravelling under the cosh from evil doings. The blend of the paranormal and the depressingly mundane are the elements that give rise to the surreal nature of the film’s narrative and humour.

What’s hard to put across about the film are the details, which, when put across, could spoil the viewing experience of the film. This was a film that was just on. It wasn’t recommended, I hadn’t sought it out, it was just something I saw one night. Not knowing anything about it made it at once hard to follow, but rather pleasingly, no less enjoyable. There was one thread of narrative that was easy to understand that made the whole thing feel like a road movie, and the tastes of London we get along the way certainly serve that genre. However the individual situations play out like comedy sketches that can stand alone, and are in some instances up there with any British comedy movie of the last 20 odd years.

The pedigree of British comedy is something daunting to live up to, I could easily cite names such as Monty Python and the Comic Strip, and this feels like a natural successor in these terms. The script is full of wit, sharp satire and yet is utterly bemusing. There is one sequence which plays out like a silent movie, but portrays the telling of the death of a little boys’ electronic pet. This contradiction in style and content gives the scene a strange, tragic, power.

Ben Hopkins is obviously a good director as he’s created this film not thinking about what he can do, but by making the most out of what he can’t. A small budget has meant the effects are inventive and the overall aesthetic of the film, in spite of the fact it is shot in black and white (presumably because black and white film is cheaper), the film seems vibrant and full of colour. And his decision to allow the actors to improvise a lot of what is said again gives the film another wonderful dimension. Especially when analysing the demonic rules of the world created in and indeed, underneath London, which one would assume would have to be tight in order to make sense.

This has allowed the films hinge-worthy success to be the lead actor Thomas Fisher, whose performance is one I find it difficult to discuss. Because I feel if I explain too much, the details I was talking about earlier could be revealed and the wondrous, dreamlike feel the film has could be ruined by prior knowledge of his character and its journey through the text. What I will say is that his turn as the many faces of Thomas Katz is playful and eccentric, much like the film itself, which you will have to watch again and again.

Review by Stefan Leverton 21/10/09

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