All Is Vanity review – studenty, stroppy self-conscious drama with a teetering fourth wall

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This lo-fi meta chamber piece from Marcos Mereles had its initial outing at the 2021 London film festival and its release this week confirms it as a self-referential and studenty piece of work, the movie equivalent of a university production at the Edinburgh fringe. It does, however, have some occasionally amusing bits of Beckettian dialogue: “Shall we go somewhere together?” “Do you like Belfast?” After a pause: “No, I don’t.”

Mereles deserves points for challenging the grammar of cinema and drama, though his fourth wall doesn’t break so much as teeter and collapse, bringing the other three down with it. The single location is what appears to be a loft apartment in which a fashion shoot is taking place: an obnoxious photographer (Sid Phoenix) is mean to his stroppy intern (Yaseen Aroussi); he is just about tolerated by the makeup artist (Rosie Steel) and the model (Isabelle Bonfrer). But then the makeup artist mysteriously disappears, stuff starts happening that is weird without being interesting, and the whole Pirandellian artifice is revealed. The actors and film crew seem to be existing in the same state of resentful, torpid tedium as the fashion-shoot crew, and the movie trudges on to the 72-minute mark and then stops, giving every indication that making it up as you go along can only take you so far.

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