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Category:    Home > Reviews > Fantasy > Foreign > French > Tuvalu



Picture: C+   Sound: C   Extras: C-   Film: C-



Many complain today of the music video’s influence on feature films, ruining narrative filmmaking, as well as the quality of motion pictures in general.  Decades before that, however, several filmmakers allowed experimental films and other unusual short subjects enter the cinematic vocabulary.  From Stan Brakhage to Andy Warhol, the very fabric of celluloid itself was being seen in a new light. Filmmakers like David Lynch, Terry Gilliam, David Fincher, and even Jean Pierre Jeunet helped to mainstream it.


Veit Helmer delves into that direction with the near-dialogueless Tuvalu (2000), an amalgamation of such alternate styles, pitting a good brother (Beau Travail’s Dennis Lavant) against the odds of holding onto a crumbling bathhouse. He has to deal with obstacles like the bizarre clientele, the rotting condition of the building itself, and his evil older brother.  Additionally, he has fallen in love with a woman who might help him, but will this mean saving the bathhouse, or realizing he has the option to abandon it without losing what he felt he needed to hold on to in the first place.


After so many filmmakers going down this road, the question is what could Helmer possibly do that would make it worth the time to watch this feature that had little ground to break?  Well, there is no ground broken here, yet Helmer deserves credit for his enthusiasm and consistency in realizing his manic vision.  It may be things we have seen before, yet he struggles to find his own identity as a director with it.  He wrote it, but it unfortunately offers a situation where he is saying one too many things only he seems to know the meaning of.


Though not an anamorphic transfer, this letterboxed DVD comes off of a clean print and good transfer.  It may be a PAL transfer, or a simple digital transfer, but it is the best thing about this disc.  One can imagine how impressive the cinematography by Emil Christov, BAC, is in its native 35mm.  The sound is another issue.  It is supposed to be in Dolby Digital 2.0 surround from Dolby Analog SR theatrical, but it is limited to 2.0 Stereo!  The same goes for the 1.66 X 1 short, also not anamorphic, which was SR.  It being 2.0 without surrounds might make sense, because you never know hat happens to short films.  They do not get the protection, storage, and treatment more expensive features do.  However, it is a problem in both cases and makes no sense.  The film sounds better than the short, but not by much.


Besides Helmer’s experimental short film, “Surprise”, you get 19 good-quality stills from the film, and other trailers for other First Run Video DVDs including The Fluffer, Cleopatra’s Second Husband, Fighter, and the fine Aberdeen.


The films actually runs 87:30 minutes, though the box says 86.  If this sounds like your kind of film, you might want to see it, but the rest should pass on Tuvalu.


This film was edited by Araksi Mouhibian, with music by Jurgen Kneiper, costumes by Boriana Mintcheva, production design by Alexander Manasse, cinematography by Emil Christov, BAC, and both written and directed by Veit Helmer.


- Nicholas Sheffo


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