The Chambermaid

Originally titled The Chambermaid on the Titanic, this 1998 French film by Bigas Luna is at once a delightful piece of romantic whimsy and a meditation on the duplicity inherent in storytelling. Horty, a French foundry worker, wins a trip to Southampton to witness the sailing of the Titanic; a ship’s chambermaid knocks on the door of his hotel room, claiming she needs a place to sleep, and though they don’t have sex, he does bring home her photograph. Soon, pressured by his buddies and inspired by his crush on the chambermaid, Horty becomes a master storyteller, spinning tall tales of his erotic encounters for ever-larger groups in a local bar. Luna seems to be tweaking the overblown pretensions of international blockbusters as Horty’s presentations grow more and more elaborate. Ultimately, though, Luna’s point is that one can enjoy Horty’s fantasies and still acknowledge them as false. The film is somewhat marred by awkward and rather uncinematic use of the wide screen, but the script and acting are wonderful. Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Saturday, February 6, 8:00, 312-443-3737.

–Fred Camper

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): film still.