Trap for Cinderella

I will declare my hand up front: Iain Softley is a very old friend and we were lucky enough to be invited to Trap for Cinderella’spremière, complete with Q&A with Iain and Kerry Fox.

The film has not had great reviews and, to be fair, it is probably not Softley’s best film – under his belt he has BackbeatWings of a DoveSkeleton Key,K-pax, Inkheart and Hackers,where he cast an unknown Angelina Jolie. In fact he drew parallels between her and Cinderella’sMicky, played by the little-known but utterly beautiful Tuppence Middleton. But Iliked it, and that’s what counts.

Adapted from the French novel by Sébastien Japrisot, in 1965 it was made into a film, Piège pour Cendrillon,with a screenplay by Jean Anouilh. In contrast to some of the critics, and as a fan of crime fiction and the new, popular genre of made-for-TV thrillers, I find absolutely nothing ‘preposterous’, ‘implausible’ or ‘clunky’ about the plot: a beautiful girl, staying with her rich aunt (a formidable Frances de la Tour) suffers from both amnesia and disfiguring injuries in a mysterious house fire.

She returns to London in the care of creepy carer Julia (Kerry Fox) but has to be re-educated into who she is. Confused and bewildered, she starts to piece together the hideous truth, that her childhood friend Do (Alexandra Roach) was killed in the fire, and that past that links them may also have an influence on the future.

Together we rebuild Micky’s history as she remembers her intense, sensual friendship with Do, whose jealousy and envy palpably feed the flames of her desire not only for Micky herself, but also for Micky’s golden lifestyle.  Voyeuristically we participate in some unnerving events – an attempted drowning, a mysterious discovery and a suicide, all of which, as the memories return, lead Micky to wonder who she really is. Is she really an heiress or is there something funny going on?

I loved the change of pace, the Hoxton party scenes and the Indy life style juxtaposed against the ravishing French countryside, lovingly shot by Softley. American backers at one point wanted to locate it in the USA, but Softley lived in France and was determined to make a film there: he has plenty of US locations in his oeuvre, but never la belle France. He is a proponent on the power of proper celluloid – super 16 in this case – as opposed to digital, for the depth of colour and in sizzling Provence you can see why – oh the sea is blue so blue, and the fields ripple with a golden glow. Delicious to the eye.

Softley is the first to acknowledge the travails of the British film–maker and the challenges he had with getting budget for this movie: so much so that many of the London scenes were shot from moving cars, for instance on the Embankment, or just using handhelds and without clearing streets. In order to avoid copious amounts of paper work he put up signs saying words to the effect: filming in progress – if you walk past this point you are hereby agreeing to be in my film. He is rightly proud of his ingenuity.

Like all good thrillers, this leaves you guessing to the end, though if you have a beady eye like me there are some good clues. I give it four stars because I would rather watch a British film any day than some horrible Hollywood schmaltzy rom-com, sci-fi or other over-rated genre. We should be encouraging our own talent: the only way we can save our independent film industry is to get bums on seats and persuade the distributors to keep showing our films. And, to respond to those mealy-mouthed reviewers, how implausible is the recent critically-acclaimed Channel 4 French thriller The Returned

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