A scene from 'The Ice Rink (La Patinoire)'
Courtesy Photo
"THE ICE RINK (La Patinoire)"
*** stars (In French with English Subtitles)
80 minutes | Rated: Unrated
Opened: Friday, September 22, 2000 (SF)
Written & directed by Jean-Philippe Toussaint

Starring Tom Novembre, Mireille Perrier, Dolores Chaplin, Bruce Campbell, Marie-France Pisier, Jean-Pierre Cassel & Gilbert Melki


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Showbiz falls on its butt in hilarious French film industry farce about a problem-plagued location shoot

By Rob Blackwelder

A lightly and fondly sarcastic, self-irreverent mockery of movie making, "The Ice Rink" ("La Patinoire") takes place behind the scenes on a location shoot for a inflated French art film trying to wrap production in time to qualify for the Venice Film Festival.

All we're told about the film-within-a-film is that it's a sports opus and romantic tragedy (!) about a hockey goalie and a beautiful girl who dies in his arms after being shot in the back while skating towards him in a ball gown (a scene that is shot over and over with a hairy-chested stunt man as her double).

"Sudden death (overtime) is a metaphor for Europe's predicament," insists the movie's frustrated director (Tom Novembre), who desperately holds his project together through a Murphy's Law deluge of semi-sophisticated slapstick disasters.

For starters, almost nobody working on his movie can skate, including him. Cast and crew wobble and crash into each other throughout "The Ice Rink" and somehow it just keeps getting funnier.

The poor director has to stroke the egos of his stars, a narcissistic American screen idol (played beautifully over-the-top by Bruce Campbell of "Evil Dead" fame) and a pampered sexpot starlet (Delores Chaplin, granddaughter of Charlie Chaplin) -- who begin sleeping together almost the minute they arrive on the set.

Shooting at an ice rink in Lithuania provides its own nightmares, including trying to control a rambunctious real hockey team hired as extras (they don't speak French and can't understand a word the director says), greasing local politicians and mopping up a flood after stage lights left on during a lunch break melt all the ice.

Then there's the cameraman for a "making of" TV documentary who is forever in the director's face as his accident-prone film hits snag after hilarious snag. The director himself, played with such droll anxiety by spindly Novembre, even winds up helming the last half of the movie from a wheelchair with a sling on his arm.

Written and directed by novelist-turned-filmmaker Jean-Philippe Toussaint ("Monsieur") as a nothing-sacred comedy of errors that finds a constant source humor in the minutia of filmmaking, "The Ice Rink" is a lampoon rhapsody for anyone even a little familiar with the stress, the egos, the unforeseen catastrophes and the absurdities that go into making a feature film.

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