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Cinema Signal:

The Pianist
(Discounted at Amazon)
. "Cashback"

While this is a film that shows signs of considerable imagination, for which its kernel as a short film won a Best Short Film nod at the oscars, UK auteur Sean Ellis was ill-advised to expand it to feature length except for one factor: the casting of a too-underused actor of brilliance: Emilia Fox ("The Pianist").

We're in Ben's (Sean Biggerstaff) world, a mostly introspective college student in art who takes a job at a supermarket on the night shift in order to make use of his insomnia caused by a break-up with his girlfriend. His boss is a quirky control freak, his fellow workers are out of a low-class frat house, but Sharon (Fox), the checker, is something else. Smart, quiet and friendly.

We enter the supernatural when Ben realizes he can stop time for everyone but himself and exploit the ability to study, disrobe and sketch the female patrons -- one frame of which is the film's poster of significant intrigue. Would that the plotline came up to its level of intrigue and suggestiveness.

Ben uses his time-stopping power for other purposes, as well, such as to effect some payback to his boss and to impress Sharon. Ellis capitalizes on the phenomenon to create striking visual moments of surreality during which we're treated to the sight of some very nice boobs. The romance with the uniquely beautiful Sharon is the film's primary focus of involvement and virtue but it doesn't quite rescue the full enterprise. Still, it's enough to recommend a viewing by arthouse moviegoers who are prone toward forgiveness.

The production is oddly Sean/Shaun-centric, which I mention only to clarify possible confusion. The director Sean Ellis takes no role in the film and shouldn't confused with Sean Biggerstaff or Shaun Evans who do, the latter's character name also being Sean.

The second justification for expanding the short film to feature length are the elements of the effort that suggest promising future work from an exploratory and risk-taking filmmaker with a backbone of ironic humor.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  


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Sean Biggerstaff as Ben.
Time stopper extraordinaire.

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