[box cover]

The Red Dwarf

Good things really do come in small packages, and Lucien L'Hotte, the petit hero of Yvan Le Moine's beautiful French comedy/drama The Red Dwarf, knows this all too well. A talented writer who finds himself in hot water after composing a love letter to the wife of his firm's biggest client, the four-foot Lucien's life becomes even more complicated after the lady in question turns up dead. Along the way, our hero develops a close friendship with young Isis (Dyna Gauzy), a circus performer who is intrigued with Lucien because both of them are the same height. ("Are you a goblin?" she asks. "No, just a Lucien," he replies.) The Red Dwarf is a terrific film, one that dares to say something interesting and different, rather than recycle the same formulas we've seen a thousand times before. It's even brave enough to shed its somber tone midway through the story -- usually a disastrous move -- but the film's split personality is a big part of its charm. The first half of the movie sets up the tale as a heartwarming drama, as we watch Lucien trying -- unsuccessfully, bless him -- to win the heart of his lady-fair. The second half, though, is black comedy all the way. Surprisingly, rather than jarring the viewer, this tonal transition feels exactly "right," which is a major complement to the actors (there's not a bad performance to be found), director, and editor, who pulled off a near-miracle with this gem of a film. The Red Dwarf is presented in French, with English subtitles (which can't be turned off, incidentally). The DVD boasts a beautiful widescreen transfer, which really allows the gorgeous black and white cinematography to shine through. Trailer, keep case.
—Joe Barlow

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