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Madagascar Skin
cast: Bernard Hill, and John Hannah

director: Chris Newby

91 minutes (15) 1995
widescreen ratio 1.75:1
Fremantle DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by Gary Couzens
Harry (John Hannah) is a gay man with a birthmark covering half his face. Self-conscious and lonely, he doesn't fit in with the local gay scene. One day, walking along a beach, he meets Flint (Bernard Hill), who is buried up to his neck in sand and has a bucket over his head.

Chris Newby is a director who forms part of the low-budget British art movie scene, which tends to fly under the radar of most viewers. His first feature was Anchoress, a black-and-white medieval tale made in 1993. Madagascar Skin followed two years later. Financed by the BFI and Channel 4, it had a brief cinema release. Newby has not made a feature since. A two-hander for the most part, Madagascar Skin is an offbeat story of an odd couple who initially mistrust each other but soon move into a deeper relationship. What's noticeable about the film - apart from two striking lead performances - is Newby's visual flair. There's plenty of striking imagery and Newby certainly knows how to tell his story in pictures: there's not a word of dialogue spoken in the first 12 minutes. However, at times the starvation budget does show: the gay club at the beginning is so under-populated that it seems almost abstract. Madagascar Skin is an intriguing film, though ultimately something of an insubstantial one.

The DVD transfer, in the original ratio of 1.75:1, is non-anamorphic but otherwise pleasing, serving Newby's bold use of colour well. The soundtrack is Dolby surround. There are no subtitles, which is certainly regrettable. The extras are confined to a stills gallery and a set of production notes and biographies.

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