Kill By Inches

A curious psychological thriller about the mental deterioration of a young tailor. Thomas Klamm (Emmanuel Salinger, who has something of the young Peter Lorre about him) is to the pinking shears born: His fraternal twin, Vera (Myriam Cyr), could fit a ballgown with one hand tied behind her back, and their father (Marcus Powell) is a master tailor. But Thomas...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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A curious psychological thriller about the mental deterioration of a young tailor. Thomas Klamm (Emmanuel Salinger, who has something of the young Peter Lorre about him) is to the pinking shears born: His fraternal twin, Vera (Myriam Cyr), could fit a ballgown with one hand tied behind her back, and their father (Marcus Powell) is a master tailor. But Thomas doesn't measure up, literally — his fatal professional flaw is that he can't take accurate measurements, while Vera can measure by eye with an accuracy that would make a surveyor weep. In town for the upcoming Tailor's Ball — an annual competition that tests the mettle of needlesmiths — Vera moves into Thomas's apartment and takes over his shop. Desperate to win his father's approval, Thomas resolves that he'll learn to measure by eye as well as Vera does, but the effort takes its toll on his psyche. After a particularly humiliating episode involving a pirate costume he's altered to fit a spoiled brat named Albert (Nicholas Tafaro), who makes a shrieking scene when one cuff proves too tight, Thomas snaps and retaliates, using the tools of his trade. Shot on location in New York City and co-written and co-directed by first-time feature filmmakers Diane Doniol-Valcroze and Arthur Flam, this handsomely photographed film is studded with freakish images and characters — the steam vaporizer Vera uses contains a puzzling black sludge; the sewing machine repairman (Christopher Zach) is a leering gargoyle; a print of a 19th-century matron tightly bound by corset stays decorates Thomas's wall — that suggest the pixilated grotesquerie of films like ERASERHEAD. Both the Parisian Doniol-Valcroze and New York-born Flam come from cinema-steeped backgrounds: She's the daughter of writer/director and Cahiers du Cinema co-founder Jacques Doniol-Valcroze, while his uncle, Jakub Goldberg, co-wrote Roman Polanski's KNIFE IN THE WATER. Both have made award-winning shorts, and both attended NYU Graduate Film School. But overall, their film is preposterous without being surreal; only at the Tailor's Ball — which takes place shortly before the end — does it strike that perfect balance between the bizarre and the curiously mundane. The sequence is simultaneously gorgeous and deeply weird — elaborately dressed and coiffed models cut capers on a tiny stage while competing tailors struggle to correctly assess their measurements — and offers a tantalizing glimpse of a more enticing film than the one Doniol-Valcroze and Flam actually made.

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  • Released: 2001
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: A curious psychological thriller about the mental deterioration of a young tailor. Thomas Klamm (Emmanuel Salinger, who has something of the young Peter Lorre about him) is to the pinking shears born: His fraternal twin, Vera (Myriam Cyr), could fit a ball… (more)

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