Tuvalu (Germany; 101min.)

directed by: Veit Helmer
starring: Denis Lavant; Chulpan Khamatova; Phillipe Clay; Terrence Gillespie

Bob says: "I absolutely loved this film. I agree that there’s a good deal of influence from Jeunet/Caro and Keaton, but I also thought it owed a lot to Tati. On top of that, at the very moment that I was thinking, “this is what Eraserhead would have looked like if it had been shot in Central Europe,” along comes Gregor and that fabulous coif of his.

"And the idea of Tuvalu itself – a place I’d never even heard of until these “.tv” domain names came along. I guess Tuvalu is to Tuvalu as Brazil is to Brazil. It’s a far-off, unseen place where all of your problems are erased – a wish more than a place, really. I love that Anton, who has nothing and has been nowhere is surrounded by maps and globes all the time, but never does anything beyond that to indicate a desire to go anywhere. He can’t imagine that his dreams could be anything more than dreams.

"A lot of this one is going to stick with me for a long time:

  • Anton walking outside, in shoes, for what must be the first time in his life, and his discovery about how one crosses the street.
  • Eva’s water ballet with her fish, and the way the fish bowl is referenced when Anton swims up to Eva’s boat and sees her through the porthole.
  • The dream shared by Anton and Eva, and the way they each find out about it.
  • The wrecked ships.
  • The semi-Viking funeral.
  • The deflation of the father.
  • The cheering of the homeless men on the roof.
  • Technology… System… Profit."
Laura says: "TUVALU is a German production filmed in Sofia about a son (Dennis Lavant, "Beau Travail") trying to keep a crumbling bathhouse operating for his aging parents while his brother is bent to destroy it. Almost completing silent, the film seems like a melding of the films of Caro/Jeunet ("Delicatessen/City of Lost Children") and the silent American slapstick. Tinted black and white photography is beautiful. Lavant is completely different from his "Beau Travail" character - he's a silent comic clown here (with an penchant for sniffing underwear!) " 4 cats
For Laura's complete review: "http://www.reelingreviews.com/tuvalu.htm"
Michael says: "I'm glad I went to see TUVALU, thanks to Laura and Peg's recommendations. This charming and bizarre film has outstanding visuals, and strong similarities (as others have already said) to the films of Jeunet, as well as the silent films of Chaplin and Keaton. As Peg mentioned, the physical performances of the cast were terrific, with Denis Lavant being a standout. It was great fun to see his comic performance. His face is so expressive, light years from the stern and somber soldier of the French Foreign Legion that he was nominated for in BEAU TRAVAIL. He has such a unique look, that is used to full effect. To borrow a phrase from KISSING JESSICA STEIN, I would put Lavant in the sexy/ugly category.

"The story is deceptively sweet and simple, yet it all works. The good guys win, for the most part, and the bad guys get their just desserts. Chulpan Khamatova's Eva is reminiscent of Audrey Tautou in AMELIE, yet her evil turn was rather delightful. I also enjoyed Catalina Murgea as Martha, the receptionist of the bathhouse where the action all takes place.

"And did I mention those gorgeous visuals? Those half submerged wrecked ships took my breath away." 4 cats
Nathaniel T. says: "Charming, surprising, and beautiful. While the story is familiar, TUVALU offers many interesting ideas and innovations. The sexual deviance right underneath the surface of the film was an intriguing addition to this type of tale. I enjoyed the cinematography especially, but out of the cast, Chulpan Khamatova is the stand-out." 4 cats

Peg says: "I saw this yesterday and enjoyed it. In addition to the aforementioned similarity to the films of Frenchmen Jeunet and Caro, as well as Chaplin and Keaton, I was also reminded of Luc Besson's futuristic film LE DERNIER COMBAT (little things mostly), and even BLADE RUNNER on some level. Visually the film is stunning (the art direction of beyond description really) and the actors are to be commended for their rigorously physical performances. The limited dialogue was problematic for me; I think it would have been better with no dialogue at all...but otherwise I found it very entertaining and beautiful."
And more: "I agree this film sticks with you. I was able to brush off rather quickly what I did not like about it (the strange limited lexicon of words). If anyone has seen Luc Besson's LE DERNIER COMBAT the subtle homages to this little-seen film are many: the constant rain and water which is the converse of the scarcity of water in that film; the ceaseless travelling of the young mercenary here foils Anton's inability to move (and in the end of TUVALUA as Anton sets off with his new love, the soldier in LDC decides to stay a while because he has found a woman); the seeming inability of people to articulate anything corresponds to the withered vocal chords of people in LDC; and lastly, that inflatable doll! The two would make an excellent double feature... "

Robin says: "This is a wildly whimsical film that utilizes broad slapstick humor, manic pratfalls, a funky little romance, a tale of loyalty to parents, sibling rivalry, greed and more. Director Veit Helmer, from his screenplay with Michaela Beck, creates, in his debut film, a world that is a combination of comic book story and classic silent comedy. It succeeds in creating a world where sound and illusion mask the reality of the decay of beloved baths owned by Karl (Phillipe Clay), Anton and Gregor's sightless dad. As Anton struggles to hide the fact that the place is falling apart, he must also cope with the sneaky efforts of his brother. Gregor enlists the help of pretty Eva (Chulpan Hamatova) who mistakenly agrees to help the greedy brother. It seems her father was killed by falling masonry in the baths and Eva wrongly blames Anton." 4 1/2 cats
For Robin's complete review: "http://www.reelingreviews.com/tuvalu.htm"

Tara says: "I am so glad this film has made it around the country - we screened it in fall of 2000 at our little film festival, Sidewalk Moving Pictures.

"My opinion was much the same, charming and bizarre, wonderful visuals and imbued with comedy...

was able to see this on a HUGE screen in a grand old theater so it was even more breathtaking to watch!"