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Film review: Chambermaid, The

Published: Friday, Oct. 9 1998 10:13 a.m. MDT

Moviegoers would be justified in believing the makers of "The Chambermaid" didn't have a clue how to end the film.

However, there are clues sprinkled throughout this uneven drama-fantasy that Spanish director Bigas Luna planned to wrap the thing up with this contrived conclusion in mind all along.

What's particularly unfortunate is that this 1997 film (originally known as "The Chambermaid on the Titanic" before another big boat movie came along) wastes a good cast, including Olivier Martinez and Aitana Sanchez-Gijon ("A Walk in the Clouds").

Martinez stars as Horty, a French steelworker who witnesses the launch of the Titanic. But more memorable than that (at least to him) is his brief encounter with Marie (Sanchez-Gijon), a beautiful maid working on the ill-fated passenger ship.

For days afterward, Horty finds his thoughts occupied with the woman. And when he is given evidence that his wife, Zoe (Romane Bohringer), may be sleeping with his boss, he begins frequenting the local bar, where he shares stories about his fantasy romance with co-workers.

In fact, he proves to be such a gifted storyteller that a traveling acting troupe, led by the charismatic Zeppe (Aldo Maccione), recruits him to join them. But his frequent fantasizing also destroys his relationship with Zoe, who has accompanied him on the road.

It is an intriguing premise but one that Luna ("Jamon, Jamon") can't quite pull off. For one thing, Horty's obsession for the seemingly doomed woman is hard to believe, given how little time the two of them are actually together.

Also, most of the cast seems unsure of its motivations, especially the usually charismatic Martinez ("The Horseman on the Roof") and Bohringer, who goes from being sympathetic to shrewish in too short a time.

Plus, the obvious set pieces are bound to pale in comparison to those in "Titanic." In one scene, the ship is represented by a particularly bad matte painting, which may cause unintended laughs.

"The Chambermaid" is rated R for profanity, simulated sex, use of vulgar slang and some sex talk, a brief fist fight, slapping and partial nudity (thanks to some of Bohringer's revealing outfits).