|PASCALI'S ISLAND (director/writer: James Dearden; screenwriter: from the novel by Barry Unsworth; cinematographer: Roger Deakins; editor: Edward Marnier; music: Loek Dikker; cast: Helen Mirren (Lydia Neuman), Ben Kingsley (Basil Pascali), Charles Dance (Bowles), George Murcell (Herr Gesing), Sheila Allen (Mrs. Marchant), Stefan Gryff (Izzet Effendi), Nadim Sawalha (Pasha), Kevork Malikyan (Mardosian); Runtime: 104; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producer: Eric Fellner; Artisan Entertainment; 1988)|
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The writer of "Fatal Attraction" James Dearden ("Diversion"/"A Kiss Before Dying"/"Rogue Trader"), in his directorial debut, presents an elegant, well-acted and well-observed drama that involves double crosses and betrayal. Though slow moving and lacking passion, it's an intelligent thriller that is both lyrical and exotically Levantine. It's based on the rather complex swindle over an art treasure, that's adapted by Dearden from the novel by Barry Unsworth.
middle-aged Basil Pascali (Ben Kingsley)
is an ignored Turkish spy, his reports for the last 20
years go unread by the Sultan in Constantinople. The
anguished Pascali lives in 1908 on the Turk-occupied,
fictional Greek island of Nisi, during the dying days
of the Ottoman Empire. There's a tension among the
foreign mercenaries, Greeks and Turks on the
island, one that Pascali tries to navigate through in
his obsequious manner.
in need of money, hires on as an interpreter
and go-between for the smoothie phony archaeologist
Englishman, Anthony Bowles (Charles Dance), who
arrives for an indefinite stay in Nisi.
Soon the spy gets involved in con deal matters above
his head, as the cunning con man's schemes turn
dangerous as he unearths a priceless bronze statue on
the land he illegally leased from the island's ruling
Pasha (Nadim Sawalha).
vulnerable, long-time self-exiled in Nisi,
Viennese artist and best friend of
Pascali, Lydia (Helen Mirren),
makes the spy jealous by falling for the smug Bowles's
bluster and plans to run away with him after he steals
the valuable treasure. As the complicated plot
unfolds, the tension mounts for what will happen to
the hapless Pascali, as it climaxes with a surprise
ending and a number of betrayals.
languid and flatly presented to stir the heart, it
nevertheless is a sophisticated literary adaption that
because of its top-notch acting prevails despite its
REVIEWED ON 4/30/2014 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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