The Guardian from London, Greater London, England on December 8, 1983 · 10
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The Guardian from London, Greater London, England · 10

London, Greater London, England
Issue Date:
Thursday, December 8, 1983
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MOVIE Derek Malcolm, David Bowie, above, as Ziggy Stardust; Don Ameche being hustled , by Eddie Murphy, centre, in Trading Places ; and Lillian Gish iorlorn in Broken Blossoms IF The Blues Brothers was not as bad as some said, and An American Werewolf In London was not as .good, at least John Lar.dis, the director of both, has abundant talent. It has never been shown to better advantage than in Trading Places (Empire, 15) which is the third best American film to reach us this year after Scorsese's The King of Comedy and Woody Allen's Zelig. For the most part, it is a marvellously spry and brilliantly played comedy in the forties and late thirties, manner a homage to the past whioh for once is not slavish in its admiration nor self-indulgent in its execution. For the most part, that is. because there is also one section of the film that doesr.'t work and seems almost like another, much more striving piece of film buffery. Otherwise, there's nothing but praise. Shot in Philadelphia, the last bastion of the eastern seaboard's money machine, it presents us with two old codgers, perfidious but charming, who make a one dollar bet with each other Ihat an idiot can be made into a financial genius and a man with all the advantages pushed into the gutter. The strikers of the wager are Kalph Bellamy and Don Ameche, Hollywood survivors who knew the great days and have superbly recreated them here with performances that utilise every bit of their long experience. The human objects of their attention are Dan Ackroyd, as the self-satisfied blue-eyed boy of the codgers' broking firm, and Eddie Murphy, as the indigent black they pull out of the gutter to replace him. Murphy is, of course, the latest sensation of the Hollywood scene, a surprising combination of Sidney Poitier and Richard Pryor, who here puts his sure-fire timing absolutely at the service of the material. He is as convincing as the bum, walking surprisedly off the streets, as he is as the slick black approximation of a white Wall Street commodity hustler. Ackroyd, as the awful school swot impervious to criticism but forced gradually to realise that his Ivy League lifestyle can and will be taken away from him, extends his previous range considerably. The danger here was over " nji , f: HITS1. X AND THE SPIDERS FROM MARS rj AWiUlfatlWrMK.alit.5AtC CMMrilrTHaMPIICUMIO.lpa GUARDIAN who is to be director of next London Film festival, reviews the playing but his control is absolute. There are two other fine performances, from Jamie Lee Curtis as the prostitute who befriends Ackroyd at his lowest moment, a hooker with a heart but wit too; and from Denholm Elliott as the rich boy's butler, suddenly forced to serve another master from the ghetto and taking these odd circumstances aboard with only the slightest mental twitch. We know, of course, what Elliott can do to steal scenes. But he doesn't here. He just invests them with an additional richness and an unerringly - timed comio subtlety. Landis's film, like almost all good comedy, is predicated on the simplest principles in this case, what happens when the mighty fall and the fallen become mighty. But it isn't simple to make such an equation seem so sharply funny. That takes acting panache, the kind of script that can let performers stretch (Timothy Harris and Herschel Weingrod) and direction that leaves well alone. For 80 per cent of the time, this is precisely what Landis does. The moment he fails to do so, and pushes matters into physical farce, is when things go wrong. Fortunately, it doesn't ultimately matter. The film collects itself again and revives. Trading Places, in this of all Hollywood years, is a joy to behold clever without being smart, affectionate without being sentimental, They can make movies like they used to after all. Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars (Lumiere, PG) was shot by D. A. Pennebaker in 1972 at Davied Bowie's last glamour rock concert in Hammersmith. No one seems quite clear why it has taken so much time to reach us, although the fact that RCA is releasing a double album just now should give us a clue. Perhaps the success of Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence has also alerted, the powers - that - be as to Bowie's pulling power on the large screen. Pennebaker's film is neither as ambitious nor as good as either his previous Monterey Pop or Don't Look Back. The off-stage sections are undistinguished views of Ziggy clones surrounding FranfoisTruffaufs FINALLY, SUNDAY! VivementDimancheL Starring Fanny Ardant and Jean-LouisTrintignant the theatre and acolytes fussing around the star in his dressing room can't achieve much more than . a peeping torn effect unless something signifcant happens, which it doesn't. The concert's the thing, and there we see this amazing phenomenon in full glory, prancing like some vaguely benign princeling at his hypnotised fellowers' behest. Curiously, though the style is now entirely different, the early seventies does not otherwise look like another distant era. In fact, it looks exactly like yesterday, a little less threatening among the audience and a little more predatory on the stage. You get the feeling that it is all a game, exciting and meaningless at the same time. Liquid Sky (ICA Cinema and Classic, Chelsea, 18) has been hailed in some circles as "the funniest, craziest, dirtiest, most perversely beautiful science fiction- movie ever made." I wish that it were. Hot from the London Film Festival where the programme note less apocalyp BRIEFING Best films Rear Window (Plaza, Screen on the Hill) : Hitchcock at virtually his best as James Stewart, immobilised by broken leg, watches Raymond Burr's murder across the courtyard. A Star Is Born (Gate, Notting Hill) : Cukor's reconstructed (fifties melodrama, still a powerful treatise on the power of showbiz to make or break. With Garland made and Mason broken. Finally, Sunday (Curzon) : Truffaut's . fluent if lightweight bow to old Hollywood via French murder mystery. With Fanny Ardent, Jean-Louis Trintignant. The King of Comedy (Gate, Mayfair) : British Critics Best Film of 1983, with Robert De Niro and Jerry Lewis adorning, Scorsese's bitterly funny antidote to A Star Is Born. La Traviata (Odeon Haymar-ket) : Lush, possibly over-decorated Zeff if elli film version of the Verdi, with Stratas, Domingo, MacNeill. ' Bfddy (Minema) : Christine Edzard's .portrait of Victorian nursemaid's world, . meticulously detailed whimsical on surface? but hard as nails underneath. Best on TV Repulsion . (Friday, C4, 11 IS) : 1965 Polanski chiller, with frigid Catherine Deneuve descending towards madness in virtuoso performance. tically called it " unclassifi-able," it was made very cheaply in New York by a Jewish Russian emigre called Slava Tsukerman. Mr ' Tsukerman, whom I've met, is a delightfully humorous man and his film looks to me like a huge raspberry blown at the Soviet cinema, doing all the things no one would be allowed to contemplate in the motherland. As such, it is also an amusing and lively foreign view of the decadent western scene, a comedy about role-playing that suggests there's a bit of punk in lis all which, if let out, produces interestingly absurd results. Aliens land their tiny flying saucer on the roof of an apartment block. They are looking for heroin and also a similar chemical, apparently produced during orgasm by the brain. They find Anne Carlisle's New Wave fashion model, suffused with smack and . a burning inner hatred of the men (and women) who sexually exploit her. If they can get at her, they can also get at both substances. If she lets them, she can take revenge on her tormentors. James Stewart, in Rear Window Arvind Desai (Sunday, C4, 1 SO) : Saeed Mirza's promising 1978 first feature about youthful alienation in present day Bombay, and the clash of traditional and modern values. The Day After (Saturday, ITV, 9 30) : Jason Robards in nuclear holocaust ' drama, made for' TV,, but a film of some power and resource. " House Of Wax (Saturday, BBC-1, 11 25) : The iirst successful D movie, made by Andre de Tolh in 1953 with Vincent Price as mad professor maimed in museum fire. Okay in. 2-D, though. Sons and Lovers (Tuesday, C4, 9 0) : Jack Cardiff's 1860 version ' of -the Lawrence novel, perhaps his best film. With Dean Stockwell, Trevor Howard and Wendy Hiller. The Good Guys And The Bad Guys (Saturday, BBC-1, 6 35): I960 Burt. Kennedy comedy. Western nicely played by Robert Mitchum and George . Kennedy as ageing marshall and bad boy. The film is a melange of electric theatre, parody, caricature and' mock-seriousness. It works well if you let it. Some might not bother. But I rather liked it, reflecting that we might now send Paul Mar-rissey to Leningrad to do the same thing. House of Evil (Classic, Oxford Street, etc, 18) used to be called The House On Sorority Row and is made by Mark Rosman, last seen in Brian De Palma's fairly awful Home Movies. There, he was one of the students at the feet of the master and he has clearly learnt something. His first feature, a pot-boiler psycho horror, evinces a talent that might just successfully be put to the service of better material. This mish-mash of scream and scream again nonsense has a guilty mother with a deformed' and dotty son in the attic accidentally killed by the sorority sisters who have rented her house. Whereupon the monster takes revenge. I think that's all you'll want to know. And it's certainly all I want to say. Specie! interest At the National Film Theatre, now the Festival is over, a John Steinbeck season is in full flow with Hitchcock's Lifeboat on Sunday and Victor Fleming's Tortilla Flat tonight. Next Tuesday, there's a Guardian Lecture with Sean Connery as his new Bond movie, very successful in America, is about to be releeased. Hans Jurgen Syberberg's Parsifal has two performances at the Scala:on Sunday as part of the Opera On Film season. At the Barbican, Jacques Tati's Parade, made for Swedish TV, continues its run as part of a season of his films. And in the Films At Work series at the Jackson's Lane Community Centre, Archway Road, there's a screening of Dusan Makave-jev's controversial Mysteries Of The Organism, which scandalised some in the early Seventies when brought to this country by the Academy. Outside London The Edinburgh Filmhouse shows the second part of its London Festival on tour programme on Monday to Wednesday. The best prospect is John Sayles' Lianna on Tuesday. The Australian epic We Of The Never Never is at ' the Watershed Centre, Bristol, till next Thursday. Truffaut's Finally, Sunday is the main feature at the nearby Arnol-fini. Scorsese's brilliant The King Of Comedy is at the Glasgow Film Theatre for four days from Sunday. Android, the low-budget science fiction hit of the year, shows for two "days from Sunday, at the Lancaster Film Theatre. Tim Pulleine new releases andr right, assesses SimB wfittfln TTflne THE 27th London Film Festival, which ended over the weekend, was the largest ever and produced record attendances and receipts. One seems to say that every year. But not every year can it be said that the movies on display -exceeded expectations. In 1983 Ken' Wlaschin's last as Festival Director after well over a decade they did. And any survey of the programme should start bv congratulating him on a job ''-.' fell done. Wlaschin had a little luck on his side this year in that the special events proved outstanding. Thames Silents came up trumps again with Lillian Gish there in person to support screenings of D. W. Griffith's Broken Blossoms and Victor Sjostrom's The Wind the last-named a revelation to those who did not know Sjostrom was a great director and fitted out with one of Carl Davis's most impressive scores. It was virtually irresistible. Then there was Ronald Haver's fine reconstruction of Cukor's A Star Is Born, now showing commercially, and the five splendid Hitchcocks, out of circulation for so long. All this was the festival's supreme decoration, around which the new movies had to struggle for attention. The fact is that they managed it in sufficient quantity to allow us to revise our estimation of the year upwards. The British Film Institute's prize for the most original and imaginative film shown at the National Film Theatre, during the year went to Chris Marker's Sunless, desnite the challenge of Cimino's Heaven's Gate (the complete version pioneered by the NFT earlier in the year), of Nicholas Roeg's Eureka and Coppola's Rumble Fish. These were the last four films in the voting, and I must say I would have been happy for the prize to have fone to any of them, except the Coppola, which I found stylised half to death, though ceri-ainlv beautiful to look at. It is Coppola's second collaboration with the novelist Susan E. Hinton but completely different in tone to The Outsiders a portrait of the future paying homage to the past and made in black and white. More of that later when it opens commercially, except to say that it seems to split audiences right down the middle. Sunless may well do the same that is, if it achieves much of an audience at all. But there- is no doubt that his extraordinary' ' melange of inter-connecting images, held :ififfll'iliSl5i!JSgl5gJs )(( During three weeks in September 1980, David Sheffconducted one of the most comprehensive and wide ranging of interviews with John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Highlights of these recorded conversations are now presented on record andcassettefor the tetime.Avauableatspeciallowprice,ESl Thursday together by a very literate commentary and filmed mostly in Japan and Africa, is a film of some substance, pummelling the mind with ideas and eyeballs with images you can't easily forget. The large Third World section came up with at least two exceptional films Sou-leymane Cisse's The Wind from Mali and-Vichit Kouna-vudhi's Son Of The North-East from Thailand. Cisse's film is about the relationship between the impoverished grandson of a former chief and the daughter of a repressive military governor, and is a story of contemporary Africa which takes aboard as many political-and social themes as the films of Senegal's Ous-mane Sembene. Son Of The North-East is a beautifully shot folk epic which avoids almost all the pitfalls of the genre, and has a superb score into the bargain. Set in Isan, Thailand's poverty-stricken north-eastern province, it has charm without sentimentality, humanity without didacticism. Two documentaries stood out, and must surely find their way on to British televi sion. One was First Contact from Australia, which brilliantly documents the first meeting of a party of prospectors with primitive tribesmen in the highlands of New Guinea. new world meeting the old and destined to crush it. The other was Patu ! Merata Mita's record of the -1981 South African rugby tour of New Zealand which brought the country almost to the verge of civil war. Mita is a Maori, by the way, and her film is a remarkable achievement, . covering an astonishing series of events. Finally, the large British section produced a little more grist for the argument that there is a revival on the way, even if it is largely chained to television at the moment. Mike Leigh's Mean time, already seen on Channel Four,- had some superb passages though plenty of rough edges as a film ; Barry Bliss's Fords On Water. pro: duced by the.'BFI, is lively, ingenious but-disappointingly. fractured in general effect ; and John Davies's Acceptable Levels, about the shooting of a documentary in Belfast and the sly destruction of its unacceptable levels by the television company's top Drass, is a orave cna intelli gent stab at political cinema. But the film which, while also not wholly successful unfinished dialogue December 8 1983. 11 the 19S3 festival addresses a substantial audience best, is Richard Eyre's Loose Connections, a contemporary comedy of modern manners with an excellent script from -Maggie Brooks and a lot of good social observation to commend it. It made a lively end to the 27th LFF, and this is when' I have to tell you that I have been appointed director of the 28th, while continuing as critic of this paper. A case, I fear, of putting my money where my mouth has been . good training for a reviewer but I hope not disastrous for his readers.

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