Ondine

Neil Jordan is one of those directors whose reputation mysteriously exceeds his actual production. Few of his films stand out as anything more than thrill or gimmick, but they’re often garbed in a thick drape of aesthetic matter that makes them look fuller than they are, and which helps them linger in our memories. Jordan is what I call a Scene Director — a filmmaker who creates indelible moments that compensate for larger mediocrity. These moments feature pulses of deep color — slightly off primary — and moving textures, liquid or fabric, that ripple across the screen. We can tell which of Jordan’s films are more expressive of his own whimsy versus those that concede to the demands of his producers. The former have a fleshy feel that gives the impression of substance, but that substance tends to be illusory, inspired by visual cues rather than intelligent narrative. His latest film is typical Jordan: Ondine has a tactile atmosphere that presses like a wet sponge, but its story is cardboard and its execution — in this case — is far too precious. But Jordan (working in a visual medium, after all) earns a few nods for his ability to wring a consistently intense tone out of damp air, one that hangs around for the movie’s duration. It’s too bad that a soggy atmosphere draws our attention to an even soggier storyline; only the atmosphere is worth anything.

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