The Grotesque (aka <I>Grave Indiscretion</I>, aka <I>Gentleman Don't Eat Poets</I>) is a very black, very British comedy that puts an unusual and perversely entertaining spin on the classic tea-cup-and-intrigue mystery. Sir Hugo Coal (Alan Bates) is a grumpy, eccentric English gentleman (and self-styled paleontologist) obsessed with reconstructing a dinosaur skeleton with bones dredged up from a nearby moor. He is also penniless, and so must live vicariously off the inheritance of his smoldering American wife Harriet (Theresa Russell). Enter: the crafty and secretive Fledge (Sting) and his wife and co-conspirator Doris (Trudie Styler) the new Coal family servants. Fledge immediately sets his sights on Harriet and the Coal fortune, Doris on the household wine cellar. When Hugo and Harriet's daughter Cleo (Lena Headey) announces her engagement to demure poet Sidney Giblet (Steven Mackintosh), Hugo is less than pleased, but not for long, since Sidney is murdered soon after and, we learn, his body gruesomely disposed of. As the rivalry between Fledge and Hugo escalates, Cleo, the police, and the poet's shrewd mother Mrs. Giblet (Anna Massey) follow a trail of clues from the swampy, bone-littered moor to the Coal pig sties and finally (rather horribly) back to the Coal dinner table. Though criticized for its irreverent humor and somewhat ambiguous ending, The Grotesque is worth a watch. Sting and his real-life partner Trudie Styler (who co-produced the film) are both wonderful as the loathsome, manipulative servants, as is Anna Massey as the poet's investigative mother. The real stars of the film, however, are not the actors, but the dense, ornamental interiors provided by Jan Roelfs and Michael Seirton. Every corner of the Coal mansion is littered with artifacts and art objects, every frame crawling with worms, frogs, and reptiles. Like a Dutch still life, The Grotesque is simultaneously repellent and attractive, a painterly assemblage of morbidity and dramatic artifice.
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