All Is Vanity
Director: Marcos Mereles
Stars: Sid Phoenix, Yaseen Aroussi, Isabelle Bonfrer, Rosie Steel
This low-budget Brit drama, the feature debut of Marcos Mereles, begins as a compelling chamber piece, chronicling a photoshoot power struggle, before it spins off in an unexpected and unsuccessful direction. In a fashionable London warehouse a photographer (Phoenix) and his eager to impress first-time assistant intern (Aroussi) are waiting for their model and the make-up artist to arrive. During the wait, the photographer toys and plays mind games with the assistant, chatting amiably and imparting advice one moment, then turning catty and bullying the next. Once the model (Bonfrer) and makeup artist (Steel) arrive, the shoot, initially, seems to go fairly well, before one of the group goes missing. Recriminations ensue and shared histories are cited as a cause. Then, midway through, the picture takes an audacious swerve into something more abstract and conceptual. Phoenix is watchably vile and abrupt as the photographer, peering over his large round spectacles with cold fish eyes, while Murat Ersahin’s photography elegantly lays out the shifting power dynamics. The narrative rug-pulling, while bold, results in an almost complete loss of momentum to irksome effect.