Signs and Wonders

(Jonathan Nossiter, France, 2000)


Jonathan Nossiter's Signs and Wonders – co-written by James Lasdun, who worked with Bertolucci on the fine Besieged (1998) as well as Nossiter's debut feature Sunday (1997) – is an appalling piece of work.

This movie delivers the bottom-line bad-news about the so-called digital revolution sweeping cinema in the 21st century: you can't get a decent skin tone in the image and, without that, even Charlotte Rampling and Deborah Kara Unger are unable to save the sinking ship.

One also gets the uncomfortable sense that shooting and post-producing in digital video invites non-direction of actors, utter formal shapelessness, helter-skelter jazzy editing to cover the absence of scripted drama, and a shocking overkill in the ironic-sampled-musical-commentary department.

This insufferably pretentious, vacuous, ham-fisted piece gestures towards the predictable Big Themes of our time (identity, history, desire, memory, urbanism) but collapses into a mind-numbing, Z grade Gothic thriller.

Nossiter, however, got a divine reprieve and another shot at the Big Brass Ring with his 'globalised wine' doco Mondovino (2004). So let's drink to the quick forgetting of Signs and Wonders.

© Adrian Martin May 2001

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
home    reviews    essays    search