The Independent from London, Greater London, England on October 31, 1997 · 41
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The Independent from London, Greater London, England · 41

London, Greater London, England
Issue Date:
Friday, October 31, 1997
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EYE ON FRIDAY 31 OCTOBER 1997 in Fifties LA 9 NEW FILMS plucks lurid adjectives from his festering mind shoot a dangerous criminal in the back, you know that by the end of the film he will have been called upon to do both, and will have grown mature enough to reconcile these actions with his formerly impeccable conscience. And Bud, excavating painful child-hood memories, wiO be on first name terms with his inner Ed. A film that works so hard toward a happy ending doesn't really deserve the sort of comparisons with Chinatown that LA Confidential has been attracting. Where that film left you out in the cold at the end, LA Confidential creates a sense of moral equilibrium that is designed to placate an audience; it reveals a world in disrepair, and then spends two hours fixing iL These things don't make it unenjoyable. In fact, it's a very well made and intelligent picture, assembled with an attention to detail, both in plot and characterisation, that you might have feared was all but extinct in mainstream American cinema. But its most intriguing moments are the loose ends that don't get tied up - such as the sub-plot about the rape victim who gladly conspires in framing her attacks for mass murder. Without that extra charge, she reasons, who would care about a Mexican girl who got treated a little roughly? If the film's determined sense of resolution makes it a lesser work than Chinatown, then it is driven by some of the same concerns. In particular, the theme of watching, or being watched, is as integral to LA Confidential aahwmtoVolan-skfs fihn. u one breathless sequence, Ed moves between three interrogation rooms in which a trio suspected .of executing a massacre are languishing. He manipulates the tannoy system so that each man is privy to excerpfs from the confessions of the others -words lifted out of context to give the illusion that the confessor has turned snitch without provocation. As he darts between the. suspects, relishing his rote as a puppeteer, a swelling crowd of admiring colleagues cheer on his progress from behind a two-way mirror. It's also interesting that the movie only ever shows the aftermath of sex, and it's a pretty despairing sight -heterosexual sex ends in bruises, gay sex u death. Then there's Lynn Bracken (Kim Basmger), who belongs to an escort agency that specialises in women tailored to re-semble movie stars-in her case ifs veronica Lake, But the most we see Lynn do with her johns is watch old Lake films playing on a projector that whirrs discreetly in her living-room -movies, and the act of watching, erotkased to the point where they have replaced the sexual act altogether. AU the films reviewed here open today. SMILLA'S FEELING FOR SNOW Directed by Bill August The first half-hour of this adaptation of Peter Hoeg's novel delivers the bones of an intriguing mystery. In Copenhagen, a six-year-old boy falls to his death from the roof of his apartment building. The police, and the doctor who performs the autopsy, maintain that it was nothing more than a tragic accident. But the boy's friend and neighbour, Smilla (Julia Ormond), thinks otherwise. An expert in the molecular properties of snow, she deduces that the child was in fact chased to his death, and begins an investigation which uncovers a colossal conspiracy. The director, Bille August, is clearly unperturbed by the stores ataircUties-remember that this Houseof the Spirits straight-faced - and the commitment that he and Ormond bring to the film is admirable. But the film falters badly once it ditches its philosophical meditation for action, not helped by stilted dialogue and creaking plot contrivances. SMALLTIME Directed by Shane Meadows It's a good thing that the young writer-director-actor Shane Meadows has wit and energy, because he hasn't yet acquired any technical expertise. But you can forgive the ramshackle nature of his first film, about a group of petty thieves loafing around a Nottingham suburb, because of its intriguingh ambiguous tone towards its characters. This is embodied by a shot of the gang, complete with girlfriends' heaving pushchairs, prowling through a car boot sale, looking like The Magnificent Seven or the zombies from Dawn of the Deadx depending on your point of view. Small Time and Meadows's short, Where's the Money, Ronnie? form a darkly funny portrait of a world in which a man is judged by the colour of his shell-suit. 'Man Alive is out now at Wfoolies. (It's Hillarious.) RRP&&99 12.99 IWOOLWORIHS

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