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The Guardian from London, Greater London, England • Page 25
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The Guardian from London, Greater London, England • Page 25

The Guardiani
London, Greater London, England
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THE GUARDIAN Thursday February 22 1990 SCREEN 25 Tim Pulleine on the magic of movies in a Sicilian village, lust and love with a Louisiana Lolita, and the turbulent priest who died for his people in El Salvador Tine magic lantern ment as archbishop in El Salvador in 1977 to his assassination three years later in the wake of his increasingly outspoken support for popular opposition to political violence and corruption. As directed by John Duigan, the film takes its cue from Raul Julia's performance in the title role understatement alternating with occasional bursts of slightly exaggerated rhetoric. The makers' evident respect, indeed reverence, for their subject seems to inhibit the dramatisation, and reliance on stereotype unfortunately prevents the picture from generating real involvement. Ted Kotcheffs Winter People (Cannon Tottenham Court Rd, 15) is a Depression-set, and depression-inducing, tale of lethal feudin' and fussin' among Southern Appalachian mountain folk. The parade of brutishness is presented in a manner akin to wading through treacle, while as the lovers struggling to cling to some finer feelings, Kelly McGillis and Kurt Russell understandably do not seem to have their hearts in it.

As an exercise in the macabre, George Romero's Monkey Shines (Prince Charles, 18) proves a non-starter. The meagre excuse for a plot is so cocooned in rigmarole about medical ethics and paranormal transference that what results does not even amount to petit guignol. does not manage to be quite enough to lend the material real reverberation. For all its pleasing moments of humour, the film seems to be held in the clutches of a rather questionable nostalgia. When near the end the matron confides to the chauffeur that he is the nearest thing she has to a friend, we cannot quite believe her.

The title of Blaze (Warner, 15) alludes to Blaze Starr, showgirl mistress of the eccentric populist governor of Louisiana, Earl Long, at the end of his career 30 years ago. As Long, Paul Newman gives a florid performance of practised ease, and the episodes of political machination, spiked with salty local idiom, are often extremely funny. Lolita Davidovich's Blaze is not quite Newman's equal, but the bawdy scenes manage to make a lively impression, with Long determinedly keeping his boots on "gives better traction" in bed. When Ron Shelton's film comes, however, to showing the veteran politico dying with his professional boots on, it is on less fertile ground, and the latter half succumbs to over-decorated and under-dramatised treatment. There is more "faction," though in totally different spirit, in Romero (Cannon Tottenham Court Rd, 15), which charts the life of Oscar Romero from the time of his appoint GIUSEPPE Tor-natore's imposingly well-crafted Cinema Paradiso (Cur-zon, PG) has an autobiographical basis.

The Sicilian village where the story is set is the one in which Torna-tore grew up and where he, like his protagonist, began his working life as projectionist at the local picture house. But the memoir has been not only emotionally amplified but distanced in time. The late 1950s, when Tornatore was born, is the period in which the film's main narrative finishes, and the period also when the communal cinemagoing which Tornatore celebrates with such sympathy and humour effectively ended. The movie is, however, book-ended by sequences set in approximately the present day. The prosperous, middle-aged Salvatore (Jacques Perrin) learning in Rome of the death of his childhood mentor and predecessor as projectionist, Alfredo, and returns to his native village for the first time in years to attend the funeral.

In between, with flashback used for exact sensuous effect, comes the body of the film, Salvatore's remembrance of his childhood and adolescence and of the deceptively rumbustious figure of Alfredo, characterised by an expertly dubbed Philippe Noiret with a marvellous wealth of physical and psychological detail. The richness and density of observation which Cinema Paradiso brings to its village chronicle gives a rhythm, buoyed by Ennio Morricone's score, which is instinctively visual. And while the film is unabashedly sentimental it is not complacent. The elaboration of community life, counterpointed by excerpts from the films which the Paradiso's patrons voraciously attend, does not preclude awareness of hardship and poverty. The coda makes it abundantly clear that material conditions in the village have improved, even though the Par-diso itself is an abandoned ruin.

The real sense of elegy lies elsewhere, in conjugating everyone's inability to fully possess their own past and emotional formation with the manner in which the cinema as a popular institution created a treasury of collective memories. Yet the skill of Cinema Paradiso happily manages to suggest that such a legacy has not entirely evaporated. At any rate, I find the experience it offers an enchanting one. By contrast with the sentimental truth of the Italian film, the fabrication of Dad (Cannon Haymarket, etc, PG) seems more bogus than ever. This is a cosmetic affair in more ways than just the sense that Jack Lemmon is got up by the makeup department so as to resemble a 78-year-old, with Olympia Dukakis similarly done over as his wife.

When first Mom and then Dad fall sick, the latter terminally, their son (Ted Danson) returns home no explanation of how he can shrug off his Wall Street ties and amid much cornball posturing finds a new understanding not only with them but with his own teenage son. The writer-director is Gary David Goldberg, whose sitcom background proves only too easy to guess. And why is it that characters on their deathbeds in films like this always seem to start reminiscing about baseball? A MORE theatrically persuasive, if hardly realistic, portrait of elderli-ness is provided by Jessica Tandy in the film version of the Broadway success Driving Miss Daisy (Warner, U). As adapted by the playwright, Alfred Uhry. and directed by Bruce Beresford, the movie deftly opens out the episodic 20-year course, starting in the late 1940s, of the cautious and sometimes caustic relationship between a widowed Georgia matron and her black chauffeur.

Morgan Freeman lends the latter role perhaps more nuances of dignity and irony than it deserves, and Dan Aykroyd hovers on the margin in a sympathetic straight role as Tandy's married son. But while some account is taken of the evolving social background, it 4 and PAUL NEWMAN the governor in Blaze LOLITA DAVIDOVICH is the stripper When glitz meets glasnost Memorable movies for momentous times Derek Malcolm sums up the Berlin Film Festival TS .1 IV. 1 .1 -1 I I 111 .1 iiMjj.awiMWiU mKMmm mikiMM Moscow, and it was clearly by a very talented but self-indulgent director. It is really a series of impressionistic pictures of Moscow life in which we follow first a woman who has lost her husband and finally a teacher who has lost the confidence of his pupils. In between come other characters and altogether they make up a depressing but extraordinarily watchable picture of a nation on the edge of despair.

Muratova presents us with a passionate view that is sometimes very unfair. There has to be a glimmer of light somewhere in these people's lives. But she is a film-maker of such strength that you don't forget a moment of what you have seen and can only pray she is wrong. This is as far removed from Jiri Menzel's Skylark's On A String as it is possible to be. This is the film from the director of the much-loved Closely Observed Trains that has been banned for 20 years and is unquestionably a very couarageous parable to make in Czechoslovakia at the time.

In it, a group of "bourgeois intellectuals" are being "re-educated" in a factory scrapyard. Nearby is the women's camp, for those who have tried to escape the country. The film is a perfect allegory about authoritarianism, just as Muratova's is a portrait of what can happen when authoritarianism finally breaks down. But Menzel has such a basic affection for his characters that the tone is completely different. I was a little disappointed by it, but others found Skylarks very moving just for the whimsicality and warmth I regretted as deflecting from its passion.

MB JT i i ili IF YOU go to a big international film festival you have to reckon on seeing 40 to 50 films in around 12 days. In the case of Berlin that's about one sixth of the programme and your chosen selection is unlikely always to be right. You have to watch at least part of most of the competition films in case you miss a prizewinner. But frequently the most memorable movies are in the sidebar events, like the Forum and Panorama sections in Berlin, the former celebrating its 20th year of encouraging the kind of talent that's too risky to show in competition. This year a Forum Prize was awarded for the first time and it went, as my bad luck would have it, to a film I did not see Serjej Bod row's Freedom Is A Paradise, in which a 13-year-old boy runs away from his Soviet boarding school to look for his father who is in a prison camp.

It is said to be very striking indeed and lasts only 76 minutes. The Soviet film in competition, which I did see, was also highly impressive but twice as long, which was a bit of a pain for the posterior, and indeed for the brain. This was Kira Muratova's The Asthenic Syndrome, set in One of Europe's most highly touted young talents Aki Kaurismaki, the Finnish director of Ariel, Hamlet Goes Business and Leningrad Cowboys Go West provided further evidence of. his profligate ability to make one vastly different movie after another with The Little Matchgirl. This has hardly any dialogue, lasts well under 90 minutes, and tells the story of a woebegone young woman, lonely and plain, who is picked up by a man who ignores her when she gets pregnant the and who then kills him in the time-honoured way as with rat poison.

She does the same to her dismal parents too. The point about the film is that it is so confident an exercise in economy and style, and it dares, like the Vehoeven, to be funny and ironic. This was in the Forum too, as was Fred Wiseman's 350-minute Near Death, which follows patients in an intensive care unit at a Boston hospital and turns out to be a social and cultural tour de force. I say that because the film, impeccably undidactic as usual, tells us so much about a nation that can keep people Richard Bates The Soviet film was a bit of a pain for the posterior, and indeed for the brain Dubliners, it centres around the events at and after a dinner party. Huston's daughter Anje-lica and Donal McCann are the couple who return to their hotel bedroom to reflect on what the evening has revealed.

Skilful script from Huston's son, Tony. (1987) Double Indemnity (Fri, BBC2, 11.20pm-1.5am): Barbara Stanwyck is the cool, brassy blonde who lures shifty insurance salesman Fred MacMurray into a plot to murder her husband. Edward Robinson plays Mac-Murray's suspicious boss. Sex and suspicion stew in a sweaty mix in archetypal film noir directed by Billy Wilder who wrote the screenplay with Raymond Chandler. (1944) Working Girls (Fri.

C4, ll.30pm-l.15am): Molly (Louise Smith), is a college graduate, photographer and part-time whore. She's just one of the girls working a small Manhattan brothel in Lizzie Borden's documentary-style film which treats prostitution simply as work and presents it like a hard day at the office. (1986) Them! (Sat, C4, 1.25-3.5am): Giant mutant ants, created by radioactive fall-out from atom bomb tests in the New Mexico desert, move on Los Angeles. Scientists and soldiers track them to the city's storm drains and there ensues a thrilling fight to the finish. Good performances all round from James Whitmore, Edmund Gwenn, Joan Weldon and James Arness but the real stars are the large scale insect models.

Director Gordon Douglas said later: "I asked the editor 'How does it And he said I said 'Does it look honest?" He said 'As honest as 12-foot ants can (1954) Carnal Knowledge (Sunday, C4, 10.0-11.50pm): Jack Nicholson and Art Garfunkel share a college room and a virgin (Can-dice Bergen) in Mike Nichols's tragi-comedy charting sexual attitudes and activities from the mid-Forties to early Seventies. Ann-Margret is the mistress who nails the stud. The film's sexual frankness and language caused a furore and the distributors, of course, made good use of this, running a come-on ad which read "The United States Supreme Court has ruled that Carnal Knowledge is not obscene." Box office success was a cinch. (1971) The Maggie (today, BBC2, 6.0-7.30pm): Rickety cargo boat plying the west coast of Scotland looks set for the scrapyard. Her skipper (Alex Mackenzie) needs to win a profitable cargo so tricks a wealthy American businessman (Paul Douglas) into hiring her.

Ealing comedy from Whisky Galore director Alexander Mackendrick. (1954) The Dead (today, C4, 9.30-11.0pm): John Huston's last film and a glorious epitaph. Based on the final story in The MORGAN FREEMAN JESSICA DAN TANDY AYKROYD The funny, touching and totally irresistible story of a working relationship that became a 25-year friendship. nLJLJHHifALJ.iiui i-i in ifaiTirgflifltanKEi OSCAR ft BAFTA NOMINATIONS NOMINATIONS BEST FILM BEST FILM BEST ACTOR BEST ACTOR BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR BEST SCREENPLAY BEST SCREENPLAY BEST DIRECTOR BEST MAKE-UP alive for longer than most but, even when the case is hopeless, can hardly be constrained to mention the word "death." The British film in competition, Silent Scream by debut director David Hayman, will probably not get any Oscar nominations next year, like My Left Foot, which was rejected by Cannes. But this study of Larry Winter, the long-term Barlinnie prisoner who was diagnosed as a psychopath and died from a drugs overdose, is an unorthodox narrative with some real power to it.

And it has a very fine performance indeed from Iain Glen as Winters himself. The film goes for broke in providing us with a fractured, episodic portrait of the man and his life and doesn't always succeed. But the approach often pays good dividends in helping us to understand why a man with so high an IQ and an ability to write both poetry and prose could have murdered a barman for 5 and become one of the most violent prisoners in Britain. Back in the competition section, there was Maciej Dejeczer's 300 Miles To Heaven, in which two Polish kids from a poverty-stricken home flee to Denmark and find shelter in a home for refugees. Back home, the Government cruelly strips the parents of custody, and only the fact that the newspapers take up the case allows a reasonably happy ending.

This is another depressing nicture of Eastern Europe and "A GREAT, EXHILARATING MOVIE!" WARNER BROS, presents A ZANUCK C0MPAN Yproduction MORGAN FREEMAN JESSICA TANDY DAN AYKROYD "DRIVING MISS DAISY" PATTILUP0NE ESTHERROLLE "SJAKEEBERTS HANSZIMMER DAVID BROWN ALFRED UHRY5S? RICHARD D. ZANUCK and LIU FINI ZANUCK BRUCE BERESFORD Original Soundfrocfc Album on i vSw and Cassettes. FROM TOMORROW SHOWING AT CURZON PHOENIX phoenix st. OFF CHARING CROSS RD, LONDON WC2 01-240 9661 Film at 2.4S, 5.50. 8.30 BARBICAN CINEMA the glitzy lure of capitalism that made one think about the problem everybody in these parts is ceaselessly talking mm aoout.

Ana aespue-ine large-scale intervention of Hollywood EAST FINCHLEV PHOENIX MAIOSTONE CANNON SEVENOAKS ACE PURLCY CANNON SLOUGH GALLERY READING ODEON TUNBRIOGE WELLS CANNON GREENWICH CINEMA HARROW CANNON (SHEEPCOTE) in the 10th Berlinale these were the sort of films that made the Festival a memorable, if patchy event. No real masterpiece perhaps, but plenty to think about in extraordinary times. Next year the argument won't be as fresh but it may go deeper. We FROM 24 FEBRUARY HORSHAM ARTS FROM 25 FEBRUARY BRIGHTON DUKE OF YORKS FROM 1 MARCH CROYDON FAIRFIELD HALL FROM 4 MARCH WALLINGFORD CORN EXCHANGE RICKMANSWORTH WATERS MEET HHillWIMIIIII llllWlUBLTMf fmBMC mmmd shall see..

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