The Observer from London, Greater London, England on November 24, 1991 · 61
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The Observer from London, Greater London, England · 61

London, Greater London, England
Issue Date:
Sunday, November 24, 1991
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OBSERVER SUNDAY 24 NOVEMBER 1991 61 w TT r Grand central station revived 7fo o7fo o tfafwn adiaaced by a radical reordering of the whole: Liverpool Street's new concourse.Pkotograph by Pod Miller. By Jake, Philip French on the murky world of The Two Jakes. IN 1975 the critical reputations and industrial standing of Milos Formah and Jack Nicholson were secured by One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Such are the vagaries of the movie business, however, that this week their latest Films, both expensive big productions, have slunk into London art houses long after failing in America. there's Made in 1989, Forman's Valmont (Lumiere, 15) is a glossy widescreen version of' Laclos's Les Liaisons Danger-euses, in every way inferior to Stephen Frears's film. The dialogue is inelegant. There is little moral or intellectual bite. The performances of Annette Ben-ing as the Marquise de Merteuil and Colin Firth as the Vicomte de Valmont lack conviction. Valmont is likely to survive as part of Forman's oeuvre. The Two Jakes (ICA, 15), of which Nicholson is both director and star, will be of permanent interest as a sequel to Chinatown, set 10 years later in 1948. It may be II M.ytitst : 1 worn a gumshoe behind the bedpost much more than that if the screenwriter, Robert Towne, completes a projected trilogy and takes the puzzled Los Angeles private eye Jake Gittes into the 1950s. Clearly Towne has in mind an epic of corruption and ecological despoliation, examining the effects of corporate greed on personal lives in southern California. The verve, dramatic propulsion and sense of evil that informed Polanski's Chinatown are largely missing from The Two Jakes. But it is, for all its murkiness, an intelligent, enjoyable noir thriller. And very good on the atmosphere, ISEW2HSM3S1 art :i s ri i!Ml L-4dry.IJa1:I.WIIJ.1JgrVVglJI psychology and apparel (includ ing, in one memorably disturbing erotic scene, the underwear) of the immediate post-war years with their odd combination of hope and anxiety. Jack Nicholson is excellent as Jake Gittes, a sort of social climbing Mike Hammer stuck with the morality of a Philip Marlowe. So too is Harvey Keitel as his client, property developer Jake Berman. This other Jake draws the gumshoe into a political morass when he hires him to gather evidence of his wife's adultery, an investigation that stirs guilty memories of the prewar case featured in Chinatown. Now oil has replaced water as the element of corruption and recurrent seismic tremors warn of retribution to come. It's interesting that Meg Tilly plays the other Jake's wife and has the oddly similar role of Madame de Tourvel in Valmont. Two of this week's three standard Hollywood offerings are macho mystical tours much endebted to teams of stuntmen performing feats of surfing, sky diving and mountaineering, and to the photographers recording them. The better by some way is Point Break (Odeon West End, 15), in which FBI undercover man Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves) infiltrates the subculture of Californian surfers to identify the four bank robbers know as 'The Ex-Presidents' because of the masks of Johnson, Nixon, Carter and Reagan they wear. Johnny's initial suspicions fall on a band of vicious neo-Nazis, but the real culprits are a playful quartet of Nietzsche-lpvers led by Patrick Swayze. This handsome movie has well staged chases and shoot-outs, but humourlessly accepts its posturing hero at his own valuation. Had I seen the film without credits I'd have guessed that it had been directed by John Milius. The director is in fact Kathryn Bigelow, whose previous protagonists have been hikers, vampires and a female cop. Is she Hollywood's Leni Riefenstahl or perhaps just its Margaret Thatcher? The heroes of Franc Rod-dam's K2 (MGM Trocadero, 15) are two mountaineers from Seattle, one a happily married research physicist, the other a womanising lawyer, who join a Himalayan expedition in search of God, grace, glory and the ultimate in male bonding. The villains are the compilers of the Gillian Darley alights at a refurbished Liverpool Street. REMEMBER the old Liverpool Street Station? Blackened train sheds, their ironwork furred with dirt, disguised a labyrinth of mole-tunnels. Behind lay the vast Bishopsgate goods yard and, to the west, ghostly Broad Street station. Travelling east was grim. Now there is just one station, Liverpool Street, which the Queen will open on 5 December, it's a gleaming, exhilarating building where the best features of the old station are enhanced by a radical re-ordering of the whole. To all intents and purposes, it is a new station. When, in 1975, British Rail proposed, as a centenary stab in the black for Liverpool Street, the redevelopment of the site into an office city of cascading glazed cubes designed by Fitzroy Robinson, an intense conservation battle began. A lengthy public inquiry saved the listed western train sheds, though not the offices, 50 Liverpool Street. The unlisted 1894 eastern sheds and Broad Street could go, too. A revised scheme failed to find a developer. Meanwhile, work had begun on No 1 Fins-bury Avenue, a neighbouring site to Liverpool Street. Discussion between Arup Associates, architects of that scheme, and British Rail led to simplification and reduction of the form of the station. Rosehaugh Stanhope's Broadgate development was born. Conservation concerns and developers' interests coalesced to good effect; the station could be treated on its own merits. It is now as rational as its predecessor was baffling. New, lofty twin towers mark the entrances, off a small square on Liverpool Street and down a canopied bank of escalators and stairs at Bishopsgate. Inside, a ground floor concourse links everything bus, taxi, tube and pedestrian arrival points. Trains come and go from exactly where one would expect, neatly pulled into line (a couple used to serve the hotel, delivering coal and laundry!) and running out beneath the aisles of the newly elongated train sheds. The view is framed by trees in the new Exchange Square beyond. Only shopping takes place, on another level. Bridges and stairs above! the concourse lead to a street I of shops, housed in glazed booths. Less enchanting than ' the oild art nouveau tearoom (gonej), the scheme is criticised for interrupting the overall view verbal and dramatic cliches that make up the script, abetted by whoever commissioned a pounding Hans Zimmer score calculated to get the blood pouring out of the audience's ears long before the climbers reach 25,000ft. The appearance of a Yeti would have given the film a human dimension. The third Hollywood mainline production, Blake Edwards's Switch (Odeon West End, 15) attempts to undermine macho ideas. Following a current preoccupation with death and life swaps, it turns on a pact between God and Satan to send back a murdered Manhattan Lothario to see if he can find a woman who really liked him. The switch is that he's reincarnated as the feisty Ellen Barkin, and the movie is another of Edwards's sentimental, blandly Jack as one of the Jakes. liberal comedies about liberating prisoners of gender. The invention flags, but the Edwards combination of lust and lustre keeps us watching. The ambitious Ama (Renoir, 15), co-directed by the London-based Ghanaians Kwate Nee Owoo and Kwesi Owusu, and Joseph B. Vasquez's unpretentious Hangin With The Homeboys (Cannon, Haymar-ket, 15) are low-budget attempts to provide insights into the lives of urban ethnic minorities. Vasquez's picture is a familiar story of truth-telling and personal revelation during a night out on the town in this case two blacks and two His-panics in New York. It's predictable, long on coincidence, but brisk, well acted and often very funny. Ama seeks to link the prosaic world of uprooted West Africans in London with their ancient tribal culture through the revelation (mediated via a of the station. But BR wanted 32 shop units on site and they had to go somewhere. Others are lodged in the hotel, while the sloping shopping mall leading in from Broadgate is partly BR owned. Nick Derbyshire, head of BR's Architecture and Design Group, has observed two rules throughout. 'Where we extended the Victorian structure, the work would be in replica; when inserting something, it would be up to the minute.' Derbyshire steered well clear of neo-Victoriana in the overtly new work: entrances and the shopping arcade are white-painted metal and glass, tension wires and engineered brackets the same bracket even turns up in the elegant Trax seating byOMK. Replica work is clearly visible. Modern building regulations distrust the loading on the filigree ironwork spandrels of the original sheds, tough and practical as it is. The original acanthus top capitals were recast and new roofing is in glass again. Key items, such as the war memorial and old company lettering, have been relocated. A corner of the listed offices has been painstakingly reconstructed on its ground floor will be the first Gothic McDonald's. Liverpool Street station is the filling in Rosehaugh Stanhope's Broadgate sandwich, with Arup Associates' work to the west and Skidmore Owings and Merrill's later phases to the east, flying above the eastern tracks. As such, the station has been both linchpin and enabler for a crucial shift. Once the land to the north became more valuable, it gave the station a proper setting, making it a pivotal building rather than a troglodyte dwelling on the City fringes. Could Liverpool Street now point the way elsewhere? Dis--cussion of the King's Cross Railway Bill is being revived in the Commons tomorrow. But a new independent study by engineers Alan Baxter Associates proposes an intriguing alternative. If the Channel Tunnel terminus were to be built on land behind King's Cross (rather than underground as proposed) amid a more traditional plan than that proposed by Foster Associates, it could save 300 million, preserve the listed buildings on site and reduce the misery of the surrounding neighbourhood during redevelopment. Like all good ideas, it's almost too simple to be true. As the flags come out for the new Liverpool Street station, let's hope BR and Parliament are not simultaneously signing a death warrant for the King's Cross area. floppy disc) that a 12-year-old Hacknev schoolgirl has been chosen as the medium for ancestral prophecies from West Africa. Had. ' it succeeded it might have been a London version of The Fisher King. Sadly this stilted, uncertain movie fails to function at any level. THE TIMES EDUCATIONAL SUPPLEMENT: 46"This is a book for browsing and learning by enjoying. If should have great appeal to children with lively minds - and Bflp Surprise, surprise: Darcey BusselLPhotograph by SueAdler. Pink exclamations J Jann Parry agrees with long legs for Balanchine at Covent Garden. WATCHING Darcey Bussell hook a long leg around Eddie Shetlman's neck, pink against black, in Agon at Covent Garden, you can see why George Balanchine loved tall dancers. They are so legible, so surprising the exclamation marks of ballet, compared with the commas and full stops of small, neat physiques. Agon has improved mightily since the Royal Ballet last performed it, thanks to more acerbic playing by the orchestra under Lionel Friend, a conductor who has taken to ballet with delight. Ashley Page and Deborah Bull, in particular, danced on the music's pulse with supreme confidence. Bussell and Shellman were suitably wrapped up in each other, his sassy strength enabling her to risk more daring balances than ever before. The positions she assumes are heart-stopping, just as those of the ballerina in. the second, slow-movement of Symphony in C (Balanchine's 1947 work to Bizet's music) should take the breath away. The Royal Ballet has just acquired this glorious showpiece and is still trying out combinations of dancers in the leading roles. Nobody looks -fully at ease yet, though the general effect, in Anthony Dowell's choice of sparkling white tutus, is delicious. In detail, however, the dancing lacks crystalline brilliance, with some soggy (though sturdy) thighs and laboured footwork. Sylvie Guillem as the adagio ballerina missed the vital element of mystery because we are their parents. Dorling Kindersley Price 25 so used to seeing her nose on her knee that the high, grand extensions in this ballet seem commonplace. Adam Cooper, who has stepped in boldly to partner her in both this season's mixed bills, has the right air of pride and amazement at their combined achievements. Sandwiched between the two Balanchines came fresh works by Jonathan Burrows and William Tuckett, both of which seek to play down the dancers' virtuosity. In the extract from Stoics, Burrows subverted expectations by substituting a brief snatch of Mendelssohn for the Blue Danube waltz which usually accompanies it. The quartet had the intently preoccupied air of folk dancers or squaddies on an assault course. Their task of man-and-woman-handling Natalie McCann from point A to point Z accomplished, they careered triumphantly into the wings as the gauzy set lifted for the 'real' ballet to begin. Tuckett's Present Histories, to two movements of Schubert's Piano Sonata in B flat major, disguises the fact that yes, it is a piano ballet, by putting the cast in soft shoes. The exception is Dana Fouras, whose white gloves and rnaid's outfit make her appear the sister of Les Biches' Pageboy. She moves discreetly among the bright young things of this particular house-party, observing alliances and entanglements between the sexes. Present Histories seems an enigmatic variation on Game, Tuckett's earlier piece for the touring company. He has developed a deceptively casual dance language, fluent and conversational, which follows where the music leads rather than making statements of its own. It allows the personalities of the young cast to unfold, although they need a more intimate setting than the Opera House stage. 644 pages, all in colour. More than 3,500 maps, photos and illustrations. Over 2,000 topics. 22 page fact-finder. Cross-referencing. Comprehensive index of over 5,000 entries. Here, from the publishers of the Eyewitness Guides, comes the first entirely new encyclopedia in years created from the outset to meet the needs and interests of a new generation. Available from all good booksellers. ISUX: (I HMIH (iS "

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