Priceless Beauty (1988)

  • Time: 88 min
  • Genre: Drama | Fantasy | Romance
  • Director: Charles Finch
  • Cast: Christopher Lambert, Diane Lane, Francesco Quinn


A rock-star who stopped singing after the death of his brother finds a female genie in a vase. She tries to help him live again.

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  • For foreign actors, hitting it big in a Hollywood film is a big deal. If one can be popular in movies among their own country and universally, that boosts a career a long way. Having more than one country backing an actor makes it much more likely to be successful. A good example of this would be Jean-Claude Van Damme. After Bloodsport (1988) was released, Van Damme’s credibility began to skyrocket. However when it comes to foreign made films, the appearance or starring of popular Hollywood actors are not as frequent. This is mainly because the filmmakers involved are foreign and cannot communicate with other actors from another country. Occasionally a foreign made film will be made with English speaking actors, but the filming crew will remain foreign. With that said, it is hard to say how much power the crew has to release their production on a wider scale. This film was all in English yet the release was all in Europe. It’s obvious that English is spoken in foreign countries but wouldn’t the native language be more appropriate? Strange.

    Written and directed by Charles Finch, the story follows depressed rock star Menrou (Christopher Lambert) being a bum on a local beach. One day he discovers a jar at the bottom of the ocean, which turns out to have a beautiful Genie named China (Diane Lane). Hoping to make his life better, China tries to turn Menrou’s life around. Meanwhile, Menrou’s ex-manager Willy (J.C. Quinn) wants Menrou to get back into the business. Seems simple enough to comprehend, yet there are several things wrong with it. Charles Finch’s debut as a writer and director was for this feature and it shows. The few characters that appear throughout the movie are largely undefined with any clarity. Menrou is only depressed because his brother Jimmy (Joaquim de Almeida) got jealous of his fame. After a night of arguing, Jimmy rides off and gets into a fatal accident. Aside from this event, Menrou isn’t clear as to why he doesn’t do anything with his life. China is revealed to be an amateur genie and isn’t quite sure of her powers. How is that she isn’t sure yet knows she’s a genie?

    The subplot dealing with Menrou’s manager is also wasted. At first Willy claims Menrou will return. Then he starts talking to Peter (Francesco Quinn) and Lisa (Claudia Ohana) a neighbor of Menrou’s to try and get him back. This goes nowhere though and it doesn’t get resolved either. Even with that said, the actors seem to be trying to a point. Christopher Lambert has his occasional moment of camp where he has that short laugh. Half the time though Lambert looks as though he’s living it up. Diane Lane as China is nice even though she comes across as bit naive. She tends to take things too literal. This makes her look clueless at points. All other actors are okay but nothing to really talk about. As a fantasy drama, the tone sticks close to the genre. The drama drummed up by Menrou and China are noteworthy for that. There are also times that come across more comical than it should have because of how silly the characters are written. Charles Finch is known for writing Bad Girls (1994) and The Dentist (1996). As of now though he has been more a producer than anything else.

    Francesco Quinn as Peter and Claudia Ohana as Lisa would have been interesting if they were developed more. It almost seems like at one point Lisa was jealous of Menrou but it’s never taken anywhere. The same could be said for Peter who looks like he had feelings for China, but again not advancement in that department. When it comes to the visual effects within the film, there’s not too many. When China first appears, she comes out of the jar, rays of light emit from the it. Unfortunately they are not that great looking. Of course in 1988 CGI was still in development so that’s understood, but the optical effects used look dated. There’s also a scene where China and Menrou visit a small pond where tiny lights appear. China ends up calling them dreams; really they look like fluorescent lightning bugs. Other than that, not much else is digitally rendered. The set design to each scene doesn’t look high end either, but they do have tangible properties to them. They are physical props and sets so that’s a plus.

    The camerawork was another bonus. Luciano Tovoli as director of photography had some pretty shots, as much as the budget seemed limited. A lot the scenes filmed throughout the movie are around the beach terrain. Shots of the ocean, sandy beaches or the stony terrain of the city are all welcome because they are different from the normal mainstream settings. Tovoli was also the cinematographer for Suspiria (1977) and Titus (1999). Music wise, a man named Danny B. Besquet composed the film score. This would only be his second and final score in his career. For the scenes with instrumental music, the instruments heard are guitar and synths. Most of the time it fits but this happens far less than the insertion of 1980s pop music. This is okay at times but sometimes when it appears, it gets cut awkwardly when transitioning. Since this movie was so limited in its release and the composer to the score has barely made a name for himself, expecting a legitimate release of the music should not be expected. It’s just ehhh,…not worth it.

    Aside from nice scenery, okay music and actors that seem to be trying, there isn’t a whole lot to be impressed with. The characters aren’t truly defined in their motivations and the effects are dated. It’s not that engaging.

    Points Earned –> 4:10

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