Sunday 16 October 2011

At the LFF: "Curling King"

The droll Norwegian comedy Curling King brings to a sport oft referred to as "chess on ice" a sensibility immediately recognisable from Dodgeball and certain Wes Anderson ventures. Just as chess has had its fair share of lunatic geniuses, Curling King presents us with one Truls Paulsen (Atle Antonsen), an erstwhile champion of the rink institutionalised after his obsession with getting his stones in the exact right spot began to get the better of him. Returned to the custody of a generally disapproving wife, he's soon obliged to reunite the rest of his crew - an incorrigible tailchaser, an insomniac grouch and a seasoned birdwatcher - in order to win the prize money that'll send their ailing coach to the States for a lifesaving operation.

From Anderson, director Ole Endresen cribs the rigidly head-on framing and obsessive production design: in his signature yellow sweater and socks, Truls is at once at odds with the pastel-pink dollhouse look his wife has cultivated for their home. From Dodgeball, the film serves up the bouffanted rival, the flowery commentary team (seen putting on their coats and locking up the studio before Truls attempts his final, seemingly impossible shot) and a mildly smirky attitude to its chosen minority pursuit: the film's best joke involves a curling administrator who refuses to answer any question from reporters that includes the diminutive term "niche".

No prior knowledge is assumed, or needed: the mechanics of the sport are actually less important than the progress of these middle-aged men in getting over their individual issues with father figures (the insomniac's dad is a Rod Stewart impersonator, to his shame) and coming to pull or push and sweep as a unit. Like the American comedies it apes, it offers very little for the women on the sidelines to do: Truls's wife is an emasculating shrew turned traitorous harpie, leading him to take up with a kooky, paint-slinging free spirit; its chief concern is with men being men - the script doesn't lack for dick jokes - as they would had they retreated to a cabin to go ice fishing. At 75 minutes, it's slight and ever so slightly sitcommy, but amusing all the same.

King Curling screens at the Vue West End on Sat 22 at 8.45pm, and again on Sun 23 at 12.45pm.

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