Sunday, June 30, 2002

The Emperor's New Clothes (IMDB) (Netflix)
The emperor in this speculative fable is Napoleon (Ian Holm), chafing in exile on St. Helena, and his new clothes come from Eugene (Holm again), a seaman who becomes his double to support Napoleon's plan to escape and regain control of France. The early trading-places scenes of The Little Corporal awkwardly fitting in as a member of the proletariet, and the nebbish Eugene getting in touch with his inner emperor are clever and amusing enough, but complications ensue, and the movie quickly extends beyond a conventional fish-out-of-water comedy, and deepens into a more enduring story about understanding what and who is really important.

To hold together a character study like this, Holm (one of the busiest film actors ever with over 100 roles--he was the Ash the android in Alien) needs to be terrific, and he is, as is the new Meryl Streep of accents, Iben Hjejle, the wonderfully naturalistic Danish actress who was John Cusack's girlfriend in High Fidelity. If only she'd be co-opted by Hollywood so we'd see more of her work.

A satisfying anti-blockbuster with plenty of enjoyable little moments.