Movie Review By Andrea Chase
"Other Voices, Other Rooms" is a rich adaptation of Truman Capote's first novel, a southern gothic where hidden motives and dark secrets bubble and steam like a swamp at high noon on summer's longest day.
It's told from thirteen-year-old Joel's point of view. Abandoned by his father early on, he's now left alone by the death of his mother. Joel's weathered the blows of unkind fate by becoming a thoughtful, quiet boy. The kind that, as he comments dispassionately, grownups find creepy.
To the surprise and relief of the aunt and uncle that have taken Joel in, a letter arrives from his father, asking that Joel come to join him at a friend's house where he's now living. Joel, equally relieved, is only too happy to go.
He arrives, to discover a dilapidated mansion in the middle of swampy nowhere. The sort of place with peeling walls and opulent Persian carpets. The rooms are packed with the curios of several generations, none more mysterious than the current inhabitants, and no mystery greater than why his father, after having sent for him, refuses to see him. Whenever Joel brings it up, meaningful glances are exchanged by the grownups.
The camera lingers on polished wood and shining brocades. But the lighting, like the mood, is dark. It turns the disintegrating mansion into a mausoleum for evil deeds and acts of atonement that are worse than the sin repented of.
The house belongs to Amy, a prissy and overdressed spinster. She's given refuge to both Joel's father and her cousin Randolph, a prime example of dissipated southern gentry. Amy doesn't seem pleased to see Joel, but Randolph is enraptured.
Played by Canadian Lothaire Bluteau, he's an exotic, kimono-clad creature given to speeches on aesthetics. He floats through the house like a ghost, concealing and subtly revealing a tormented inner life with gestures as small as a fleeting glance. And while the southern delta never produced his odd Georgia-by-way-of-Montreal accent, it can be forgiven if not forgotten because of Bluteau's perfectly nuanced performance.
"Other Voices, Other Rooms" has a moral on the pain and necessity of needing other people delivered in the flowery language, visual and spoken, of southern storytelling, embellished by just the right touch of mysticism. It deserves to be savored.
© 1998 - Andrea Chase - Air Date: 1/12/98
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