The Age from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia on December 6, 1998 · Page 87
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The Age from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia · Page 87

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Issue Date:
Sunday, December 6, 1998
Page 87
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applause (5 movies THE SUNOffi Ct tDECOWa 1998 shortcuts Ante Strikingly animated, the latest DreamWorks offering is an engaging fairytale about an ant who is smitten with someone above his station and subsequently finds himself the leader of a workers' revolt. A witty satire featuring some wonderful voicing from Woody Allen, Gene Hackman and, all too briefly, Christopher Walken. On general release. Crirfat A Price Above Rubies Renee Zellweger's stunning performance gives Boaz Yakin's rites-of-passage melodrama its soul, but the film also presents a strikingly detailed portrait of the Brooklyn Hassidic community which she has to escape Inofdertosurvive. On general releasClS" Atlantis Loaded with extraordinary footage of the always graceful, sometimes funny and sometimes scary creatures that inhabit the world's oceans and lingering on the otherworldly textures of their environment Luc Besson's dazzling Cinemascope film is an underwater ride you won't forget in a hurry. At the Astor and Lumiere cinemas. rrr& Eve's Bayou In writer-director Kasi Lemmons' feature debut, set in a picturesque Louisiana bayou during the '60s, a 10-year-old girl believes she has -' killed her father. A gentle but compelling coming-of-age drama and a thoughtful reflection on memory and the eluslveness of the truth. At the Como and Dendy Brighton cinemas.'&"ft"ftf HeniyFool v Although he acts like a character out -of some Dostoevsky novel, there's a lot less to Henry Fool than he's prepared to acknowledge. However, he's also the outsider whose intrusion ignites sparks in the rundown Grim family. Hal Hartley's film about the different ways in which : art touches people's lives is " adventurous and enigmatic. On ' general release. "r?('( Homegroim ' - Three men and a harvest! A comic ; trto of dope-growers -a redneck, a pothead and a rookie - are tossed into a thriller plot about "the smell of money and the sweet stink of success". Meandering, occasionally ' amusing but mostN off its head. On general release. 'irft' Lode Stock And Two SmoloRgtarels They're all crooks as far as the -noticeably absent law Is concerned, : so the only thing that distinguishes the characters In Guy Ritchie's first feature Is a matter of degree. But far from being a conventional gangster story, this is a beautifully written and very funny black comedy about how badly the best-laid plans can go wnrjOngeneral release. Love Is The Devi Although the artist's work is absent from John Maybury's episodic tableaux-styled "study for a portrait of Francis Bacon", it is everywhere felt . . in the film's visual style and, most particularly, in Its depiction of Bacon as someone for whom life was an ongoing matter of disarray. Intriguing . but ultimately unsatisfactory. At the i Nova and Longford cinemas, -frftx The Hairy Bird REVIEW: TOM RYAN DIRECTOR: Sarah Kemochan WRTTER: Sarah Kemochan CAST: Gaby Hoffmann, Kirsten Dunst, Lynn Redgrave, Heather Matarazzo LENGTH: 96 minutes RATING: M On general release INSTANT CRIT: It begins like a teen comedy about arts who just want to have fun. But is the students of Miss Godard's oppose a merger with a boys' school, Sarah Kemochans directorial debut eventually reveals that its real agenda is the birth of '60s feminism. The Governess REVIEW: TOM RYAN DIRECTOR: Sandra Goldbacher WRITER: Sandra Goldbacher CAST: Minnie Driver, Tom Wilkinson, Jonathan Rhys, Florence Hoath LENGTH: 114 minutes RATING: M On general release INSTANT CRIT: Strong on ideas but largely unconvincing in the realm of passion, Sandra Goldbacher's film is a period portrait of the artist as a young woman struggling to find hersctf amidst the social constraints she faces because of her sex and her Jewishness. LIKE BOAZ YAKIN'S A PRICE Above Rubies, currently screening elsewhere in town, The Governess tells the story of a young Jewish woman's attempts to break free from oppressive patriarchal ways. Replacing Yakin's contemporary New York with London and Scotland during the 1840s, the feature debut for British writer-director Sandra Goldbacher (whose background is in documentaries) provides a different and more problematic escape route for its strong-willed heroine, Rosina Da Silva (Minnie Driver). When we first meet Rosina, she's in her prescribed place at a traditional Shabbat service, segregated from the men in black leading the prayers. In fact, she seems to be in a constant state of isolation, doors and curtains continually cutting her off from the realities of the world. When her father (Bruce Myers) is murdered by anti-Semites, she's protectively kept from his body by the male mourners. She overhears the older women's conversations about him - "You never know a man's true nature" - but nobody explains what that means. Goldbacher's film is at its best during these early stages, its attention to detail both economic and evocative. But Rosina's flight to another world is accompanied by a gradual loss of dramatic momentum. It should have been the reverse, for her journey - under an assumed name and as governess to a wealthy eenlile family on the Isle of Skye - leads her to scientist Charles Cavendish (Tom Wilkinson), the aloof and "mysterious" master of the house, and to what is to become, for her, a Grand Passion. Rosina's "great adventure", as she describes it in one of her letters to her sister (Emma Bird), is a voyage of discovery in which who she is and the mystery that Cavendish (and her father) represent are inextricably woven together. She finds herself assisting her new employer with his pioneering work in photography, connecting him in her dreams to her father. Then, believing she has discovered a soul-mate, she takes the initiative, first sexually and then with the camera. However, there ensues a stretched-out power struggle in which nothing much seems to happen, although she eventually comes to recognise what is evident from early on. The social parameters of life on the Isle of Skye are little different from the ones that circumscribed her youth: to do with anti-Semitism, being a woman and having to deal with "a man's true nature". In this context, The Governess is a deliciously ironic title. It refers to one of the few professions open to women at a time of limited options, and Rosina shows in her dealings with young Clementina (Florence Heath) that she is well equipped for it. But, given the social place she is forced to occupy, by her sex and her religion, "governing" is the last thing she can expect to do. Goldbacher's film is strong at the level of ideas, especially knowing in its WHEN ODETTE (GABY HOFF-mann, the late Abbie's daughter) arrives at Miss Godard's Prep School for Girls, it's early 1963. John F Kennedy is still the President, his image and those of brothers Bobby and Teddy adorning the walls of the dorm-room Odette finds herself sharing with Verena (Kirsten Ounst) and Tinka (Monica Keena). And there's little hint of the storm or the social revolution that are both brewing. As far as Odette is concerned, the worst thing that could hapnen to her is the exile she faces in this solemn bluestone building in New England. For her, it's "the end of the world ... surrounded bv hiph walls and populated by lesbians". She's been sent there by her parents to keep her awav from sexual temptation, but there s that and a lot more in store for her at Miss Godard's. At first, Sarah Kernochan's directorial debut seems on the verge of deteriorating into slapstick fluff of the order of a '90s American variation on The Belles Of St Trinian's. Odette goes through a period of adjustment, getting to know the other girls, learning the ropes, gaining the nickname of "Odious", and discovering that the school's principal, Miss McVane (Lynn Redgrave), has words of wisdom to spare: "They're you," she explains to Odette. "If you get to know them, you'll get to know yourself." However, what initially seemed like formulaic decoration suddenly acquires a greater significance, with the proposal that the financially strapped Miss Godard's should merge I " nwjk 7 depiction of the ideological struggle over control of Cavendish's camera. But the passion depicted in The Governess is generally unconvincing, asserted in the often-stilted dialogue with the nearby St Ambrose Boys' School providing the catalyst for the change. The secret group of six pledging to help each other achieve some not especially auspicious ambitions blossoms into an underground resistance unit. The instinctive hostility to the officious monitor (Rachael Leigh Cook), and to figures of authority in general, is transformed into a force for change. And the amateurish plot to deal with the misogynv of the lecherous history teacher (Robert Bockstael) grows into a knowing stand against patriarchy. The usual elements of the teen movie aren't entirely abandoned - a romance blossoms, a vomit-fest subverts a solemn occasion - but they take a distant second place to the spirit of rebellion that seizes hold of We girls. And of Miss McVane, who'd proved herself a sympathetic supporter even as she sadly surrendered to the inevitable ("It won't be the first time women have had to marry tor money"), and who now rediscovers her voice. The Hairy Bird (released as Strike! 'in the US) is an appealing slice of nostalgia for a time when the world seemed ready for the taking for those with enough spunk to try. But it's also surprisingly hard-nosed in its recognition of the enemy these young women find themselves battling: not males so much, although some do abuse their position, but those insidious forces generally conspiring under the guise of "economic realities". For the significance of the title, you'lhave to listen to the very funny song over the closing credits. ("You don't love me: you love a dark idea") rather than shown, and suggesting that Goldbacher has kept her characters on much too tight a leash.

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