A PERFECT ENEMY – movie review

Brainstorm Media
Reviewed for Shockya.com & BigAppleReviews.net linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Kike Maíllo
Writers: Cristina Clemente, Kike Maíllo, Fernando Navarro, from Amélie Nothomb’s novel “Cosmétique de l’ennemi.
Cast: Athena Strates, Tomasz Kot, Marta Nieto, Dominique Pinhon
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 6/8/21
Opens: June 11, 2021

The way the plot is constructed reminds me of the opening lines of my favorite poem:

“It is an ancient mariner
And he stoppeth one of three,
‘By thy long gray beard and glittering eye,
Wherefore stoppeth thou me?’”

Top architect Jeremiasz August (Tomasz Kot) delivers a talk at a Ted-type conference, where his best line is that perfection is reached when there is nothing more to take away. He is on the way to Charles deGaulle airport where he expects to board a flight from Paris to Warsaw when Texel Textor (Athena Strates), a woman of about twenty years, pounds on the taxi door. She asks for a lift to the airport since she cannot find a taxi. He reluctantly offers her a seat, though he is running late for his flight. Incredibly, when she fears that she left her luggage and passport behind, he allows the taxi to reverse course so she can find it.

What Barcelona-born director Kike Maíllo will be dealing with for most of the story is like what rivets wedding guest in Coleridge’s poem; rooted to the ground although he “heard the loud bassoon,” unable to walk away from the cursed sailor. Texel serves, if you will, as a modern ancient mariner (oxymoron intended), relishing the famous man’s attention, and if he had any doubts about giving the woman his time, her question, “Have you ever killed anybody?” rivets him. Her story will come to near completion when she describes the person that she murdered.

Opposites attract. The architect is a perfectionist; his philosophy apparently one of minimalism. By contrast she is like the kid who is sent to the principal’s office almost daily; impulsive, driven, and imaginative where he favors the concrete. Jeremiasz’s own imagination, however, is not restricted to counting sheep. Unlike the impression he gives to his audience at the Ted-type talk, that he is wedded to the concrete, to what can be proved (he does not believe in God), he will fool the modern mariner and, like the song from Anna in “The King and I” song “Whenever I’m afraid…I whistle a happy tune…and fool myself as well,” he deceives himself.

The two have started off as strangers, although Texel may or may not have been at Jeremiasz’s lecture, they have someone in common, Isabella (Marta Nieto), a beautiful woman whose own story seems so compelling per Texel’s narration that the architect may miss his flight and not care. Such is the power of a good storyteller, and Textor, whose name means “weaving a text,” is magnificent.

This is an imaginative tale full of human emotion that at some point reaches a boiling point. A person’s head comes crashing into a mirror in the airport men’s room. A knife is drawn, which will predictably be used. So no, Jeremiasz, you may wish the world to be rational, but it is anything but. After a few hours of conversation with Texel, who is the architect’s unequal, too young to be a college graduate, the architect has been taken down, his view of the world deconstructed.

90 minutes. © 2021 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B+
Acting – A-
Technical – B+
Overall – B+