High Spirits (15) (Neil Jordan, UK, 1988) Peter O’Toole, Daryl Hannah, Steve Guttenberg. 92 mins. I yield to no one in my admiration ior Neil Jordan's visual ﬂair and storytelling skills as evinced in the likes ol Mona Lisa and Angel but High Spirits is a sorry muddle that displays little oi his invention or linesse. Its dispiriting progress is merely compounded by the sound oi one’s high expectations being systematically dashed.
Peter O’Toole, who certainly has the wit and dash ior such aliairs, stars as the troubled owner of Plunkett Castle. Facing iinancial ruin, the horrifying embarrassment of American ownership and brick-by-brick deportation across the Atlantic, he strikes on a desperate scheme to rustle up trade by promoting the ancestral pile as the most ‘ghostridden guest house' in the Emerald Isle.
The eager and the gullible roll up only to scoii at the ieeble attempts to raise their hair but the real ghosts are so appalled by events that they begin to maniiest themselves in the unlikeliest oi locations. A complicated supernatural romance develops between tourist Steve Guttenberg and the ethereal Mary (Daryl Hannah). Come All Hallows Eve, there is an opportunity ior her spectre to become human and tar flesh and iantasy to mix. . .
A hell-ior-leather slapstick larce with Iashings oi special eitects and obvious humour, High Spirits lacks timing or originality. Conjuring up the cinematic ghosts of Bene Clair's The Ghost Goes West and Blithe Spirit, Jordan’s decision to opt Ior an ensemble piece robs the viewer oi a focused story or sympathetic iigure trying to resolve a dramatic situation. The diiiuse nature of the piece merely creates a leverish chaos with everyone somehow fitted in but no one allowed the screen time to
develop their characterisation. O’Toole is utterly charming and completely wasted whilst the remainder oi the cast, when not resorting to the most unsophisticated oi ‘Oirish’ stereotypes, scamper around gamely but to little avail.
Perhaps comedy just isn't Jordan’s torte or the compromises of international production have spiked his authorial independence, but this poorly developed mularkey is all steam and no subtlety and does credit to few oi those involved, least oi all its creator. (Allan Hunter)
Neil Jordan's admirers are used to having their hero change tack in a way which is predictable only in its regularity. Angel, The Company oi Wolves and Mona Lisa all reiused to take the standard iilm world route - as laid down by William Goldman in the best book ever written about Hollywood, Adventures in the Screen Trade —which demands that you repeat whatever made money beiore. That is a pressure the director has consciously resisted.
‘It's been my natural inclination always to move on to something quite diiierent. One oi the things which attracts me to iilm is that it you choose
a comedy, say, or a horroriilm, or a iilm noir, you can actually play with the history oi it, orthe kind oi inherited language oi the thing, and bend it around to suit. AiterAngel, people were looking for me to do more iilms about the Irish situation, and then when I did The Company oi Wolves, people expected me do animal iilms or something — I kept getting all these scripts with dogs in them! When I wrote Mona Lisa, nobody would touch it, you know, they would say what are you doing with this realistic story, why isn‘t it a iantasy? It you like to attack diiierent types oi story, you do tend to have that problem.‘
Jordan's new iilm may well prove to be his biggest box-oitice success. But it is certain to alienate many oi those who have admired his earlier work. High Spirits is his most overtly commercial venture thus far, a special eitects-laden comedy about an Irish ' castle owner's attempts to convince a ' group of tourists his castle is haunted, only to incur the wrath of the real ghosts. Ghosts and humans then start to tail in love, causing much chaos amidst the lavish sets and high-tech six. The latter, though, were an aspect oi the iilm he tried to keep in check.
‘The pressure oi a big budget on a director is the pressure to make the iilm big. You have to make sure that all the money is on the screen, and that it will make an impact on the audience, but at the same time, I was trying to keep the eitects down, to try to make them serve the movie. In a sense, you have more control as director in this kind at project, because every aspect of the shot is designed by you. The only thing you lose with elaborate eitects is the spontanteity, and oi course, it makes the judging oi the timing oi material very diiiicult, which is a nightmare in comedy, where timing is everything, really, isn't it?’ (Joe Alexander)
appealing characterisation as the dopey innocent at large. and because it treatsthe situation with a little intelligence. Josh is at times lost and bewildered in the adult world. for instance. but his unspoilt ideas triumph when he gets a job with a toy company. Good mainstream fare. Strathclyde: AMC Clydebank It). I Bigioot and the Hendersonsu’G) (William Dear. US. 1987) John Lithgow. Melinda Dillon. Don Ameche. lllmins Disneyesque family adventure in which the all-American Henderson famin crash into the legendary Bigfoot and adopt the sttprisingly genial beastie as a domestic pet with predictable complications from the neighbours and blood-hungry hunters. Edinburgh: Filmhouse. I Black Beauty (PG) (James Hill. UK. 1971 ) Mark Lester. Walter Slezak. Patrick Mower. 106 mins. An untameable wild horse suffers a variety ofmisfortunes before being reunited with its young master. Ho-hum filming of the Anna Sewell children‘s classic. with the nauseating Lester as would-be cute as usual. One for the gymkhana types perhaps. Edinburgh: National Museum Of Scotland. I Blue Velvet ( 18) (David Lynch. US. 1986) Kyle MacLachlan. Dennisllopper. Isabella Rossellini. 120 mins. Lumbcrton. middle-America. Would-be boy detective Jeffrey Beaumont finds a severed car on some waste ground and when the police
shoo him away he decides to do some investigating ofhis own.
A singular fusion of the cosy and the terrifying which blends kitsch and nightmare. B-movie detection and brutal
sexual perversion to deconstruct our complacent vision of what passes for normal society. This is filmmakingof remarkable imagination and skill that places its director in the front rank of contemporary American cinema. Central: Regal. I Breathless A Bout De Soufﬂe ( 15) (Jean-Luc Godard. France. 1959) Jean-Paul Belmondo. Jean Seberg. 90 mins. A chic Parisian petty criminal (Belmondo) and his American ex-patriate girlfriend (Seberg) drift through a world of stolen cars and aimless romance inexorably towards a downbeat finale. Godard‘s debut feature provoked quite a stir in its day for the carefree arrogance with which it ignored the conventions of filmic grammar. but today it stands asa casual love letter to the American B-movie crime picture. brimming with the kind ofcinematic freshness and charisma that the director seemed to lose during his later Marxist period. And the two stars are well iconic. Glasgow: GF'I'. I Broken Blossoms (PG) (D. W. Griffith. US. 1919) Richard Barthelmess, Lillian Gish. Donald Crisp. 95 mins. London's Limehouse. and Barthelmess plays an oriental who protects frail waif Gish from
the unpleasant attentions of nasty landlord Crisp. Badly dated now. this reriiainsorie ofGriffith‘s most understated and undervalued movies. though the melodramatic acting style can grate after a while. Edinburgh: Edinburgh l-ilm (iuild. IBIISlBl‘(15) (David (ireen. UK. 1988) Phil Collins. Julie Walters. Larry Lamb. Stephanie Lawrence. 103 mins. Low-budget biography of ( ireat 'I‘rain Robber Buster Edwards that manages to gloss over the planning. execution and violence ofthe heist itself to focus on his sentimental love affair with his wife.
A creditable starring debut for ( ’ollins and a subdued Walters help tocompensate for an inadequate script and some crass moments. creating some of the affection of a working class couple who need each other and their own folk. Overall. the result is the trivialization of the real ey ents into a bland mix of Mills and Boon with Minder. Strathclyde: AM(' (‘lydebank III. I Cameron's Closet ( Is) (Armand Mastroianni. US. 1988) lab I lunter. Scott Curtis. Chuck McCann. 87 mins. Schloeko sleazer about a nasty monster conjured up by the mind oftelekinetic child Curtis.
The creature lives in a closet. ariycloset. and leaps out on people he doesn't like. Somehow crazed director Mastroiariiii manages to work in surreal dream sequences and a Mayan voodoodoll. which gives you some idea of how ltlt tpy this whole enterprise is. For bad mos ie
fans this could sound like something ofa recommendation. Glasgow: Cannon Satichieliall Street. I Catch 22 ( 18) (Mike Nichols. US. 1970) Allan Arkin. Art Garfunkel. Orson Welles. Martin Balsam. l2] mins. lixpensive screen version ofJoseph lleller's million-selling masterpiece has Arkin as a fine Yossarian attemptingto get out of the Airforce as WWII explodes around him. bttt coming tip against the idiosyncracies of military bureaucracy. The events are all here. and for somethat may be enough. but someone alongthe line should have realised that the novel‘s dazzling wit is primarily a verbal one. lidinburgh: Cameo. I Charlotte's Web (ti) (Charles A. Nichols) Voices of Debbie Reynolds. llenry Gibson. 85 mins. Animated version of the lib. White classic in which a farmyard spider befriends a shy piglet. .\'ot badly done by the l lanna-Barbera studio. lidinburgh: Cameo. I A Christmas Story ( l’( i) ( Bob Clark. [13. 1983) Peter Billingsley. Darren McGavin. Melinda Dillon. 98 ntins. (‘hristmasis coming and our young herodesperately is ants a certain type of toy gun front Santa. Appealing liorties-sel memoir. with a w ill_\ first person narration and a great performance from the bespectacled child star. lidinburgh: ('ameo. I Commando ( 18)(Mark L. Lester. [18. 1985 I Arnold Schwarzenegger. Rae Dawn ('hong. Ull mins. When hisbeloved daughter Jenny is kidnapped asa blackmail gambit to win his cooperation in an assassination attempt. retired colonel Schwarzenegger springs back into action. lit a matter of hours he must locateand rescue the girl. beat the bad gttys and settle an old score. llardly enough botherto work tip a sweat really.
('ummmulo is a pure action adventure told with zest and the saving grace of gallows humour. The pace rarely tlagsand Rae Dawn (‘hong is a treat as an innocent bystander along for the ride. Patently preposterous btit persuasively packaged. (ilasgow: (‘annon (‘larkston Road.
I Dark Crystal (PG) (Jim Henson. l-"rank ()z. l'K. IUSZ ) 9-1 riiitis. The Muppet men branched ottt w itli this unoriginal children's fantasy surrounding the quest for a missing shard front the all-powerful dark crystal which must be retrieved to prevent evil consuming the known world. Strathclyde: AMC (‘lydebank ll).
I Distant Voices. Still Lives ( IS ) (Terence Davies. L'K. 1988) Peter l’ostlethwaitc. Angela Walsh. Freda Dowie. Dean Williams. 85 mins. With this diptych of two short films seamlessly run together. Terence Davies tells the story of hisowri famin through the Forties and Fifties. concentrating in the first ltalfori the domineering violence of his autocratic father. and in the latter section on the marital tensions of the household‘s next generation.
'l'echnically impeccable. this bravura piece of film-making glues together an affecting emotional mosaic with judiciously chosen music to create an oy erpowering piece of filniicart. establishing Davies as one of the country's premier celluoid talents. Edinburgh: l‘ilmhouse.
I Don‘t Look Now i la) (Nicolas Roeg. UK. 1973) Donald Sutherland. Julie ('hristic. “13mins. Restoration expert workingin Venice meets up with two old sisters who claim spiritual communication with his recently drowned son. Soon he himself begins to suffer visions of a tiny red-coated ligure scurrying through the city's dark alleys.
Splendid Nic Roeg movie. as subtly textured and brilliantly edited as the rest
of his work. but with the added advantage that it also makes for a rather good yarn. lidinburgh: Cameo. I Dream Demon ( 18) (Harley Cokliss. l'K. WSH) Kathleen Wilhoite.Jemma Redgrave. Jimmy Nail. Tim Spall. 89
14 The List 23 Dec 1988-— 12Jan 1989