Alan Parker‘s career positively courts confrontation. From the Turkish prison thuggery of Midnight Express to the notorious creative combat zone that was Pink Floyd: The Wall and the heady brew of sex. death and voodoo marking Angel Heart‘s demonic visual expressionism. the Parker directorial style has always been the equivalent of a cinematic head butt. Not something you forget in a hurry and not very pleasant either. Now. however. with Mississippi Burning. the kinetic Parker attack has been directed towards the civil rights struggle in the southern states of the US in a film that has won the Londoner the greatest Hollywood acclaim ofhis entire canon (seven Oscar nominations). but has also aroused in America a storm of protest for daring to reopen one of the country‘s most painful wounds. Based on the case of Andrew Goodman. Mickey Schwerner and James Chaney. three young civil rights workers (two white. one black) murdered by the Klu Klux Klan in the Mississippi ofJune 1964. Parker‘s film shows how the death of the whites brought the FBI. in the shape of Gene l'lackman and Willem j Dafoc. into the state in force for the i first time to challenge the legalized discrimination then enshrined in the ' local legislation. It‘s a truly disturbing portrait of racist hatred at its most virulent. but while it does zero in on a moment of undoubted historical significance. black lobbyists have objected that the story of the white FBI investigation is not the story that needs to be told. Parker undoubtedly-has a point when he admits that ‘the film was not meant to be the definitive chronicle of the black civil rights movement.‘ Yet. while the film has been criticised for focusing the bqu of its attention on the conflict between unscrupulous old cop Hackman and by-the-book young c0p Dafoe. he
remains adamant that this kind of approach is the one best suited to enable the project to exist within the commercial marketplace: ‘lt‘s a movie. It's constructed to reach as wide an audience as possible. The truth behind the film is the real truth. and I hope the spirit ofthat is correct. I‘m quite secure in where my heart lies and what the film does. and
For many. the depiction of the FBl methods in tracking down the bodies has been the major bone of contention. for while Parker uses the figure of Francis McDourmand's pained Klan spouse (and l lackman‘s love interest) as a major narrative catalyst. in reality the vital information was profered by an agency Klan informant. who was allegedly paid some $30.00“ for his trouble. ‘An audience's involvement in a movie is in the personification of things‘ Parker retorts. ‘and not necessarily in the broader issues. The emotions of the audience are always invested in people. so I think we‘ve used an acceptable device to
say other things.‘
Of course Mississippi Burning is a
who it speaks for. Undoubtedly the loudest voice in the film is black. but I had to tell it from a white
genuinely powerful and beautifully crafted piece of work that has done much good in opening up the issues at hand and creating a debate. but the lingering doubt is that for all his obvious dedication against injustice. Parker has still settled for a compromise that only just tests
I lollywood's all too constrained terms ofpopular acceptibility. As ever. when he is in a corner. ‘our Al' simply resorts to a spot ofegghead bashing: "The great difficulty is to actually make a film that is accessible to a wide audience but that says something anyway. The easiest thing in the world is to make a personal film that eight intellectuals go and see in some Paris cinematheque.'
The easiest 1h ing in the world .
Alan‘.’ Oh come on. Donning the cloak of the spurious vulgarian is surely much simpler. ('I‘revor
ONES TO WATCH
Our pick otthelortnight's highlights on the commercial and repertory circuits. . . Formore comprehensive reviews and venue details see the Film Index. while complete programme inlorrnation can be found in the Film Listings.
A CRY IN THE DARK Meryl Streep whips out another accent in this dramatisation of the story of Lindy Chambers. Atistralian mum accused of murdering her child in the notorious dingo baby case. Director Fred Schepisi returns borne to ()z. (‘annons release from 26 May.
MISSISSIPPI BURNING Brit director Alan Parker stirred up a hornet‘s nest ofcontroversy stateside with this fietionalization ofthe search forthe bodies of three murdered white civil rights workers during the black protest era ofthe early Sixties. because it‘s white I’Bl men llackman and Defoe who clear up the mess. ()deons release from 1‘) May.
TORCH SONG TRILOGY Writeristar l larvey Fierstein retained control over this screen version of his stage classic. which has him playing drag artiste Arnold through emotional conflict with Jewish
Momma Anne Bancroft and pretty lover Matthew Broderick. and the result isa potent brew of laughter and tears. lidinburgh l’ilmhousc 31 May 3.lunc;(i|asgow l-‘ilm Theatre 2‘) May 7 June.
5th FRINGE FILM FESTIVAL .\'ow established at Filmhouse. Scotland's prenucr showcase for independent film and video boasts a strong programme this year that ranges from innovative Polish work to a selection of Section ZX-relatcd material. and a lot more besides. lidinburgh l-‘ilmhouse 26—28 May. UN ZOO LA NUIT Jean-Claude Lanzon’s ()uebecois movie follows on from the Mayfest season. lleaped with awards at home. this stylish lowlife thriller that turns into a father son relationship chronicle halfway through has so far divided opinion over here. (ilasgow Film Theatre 23-37 May.
BEACHES Bette Midlcr and Barbara llershey star in thisold-fashioned romancer as two women who meet on an Atlantic (‘ity beach at the age of
eleven and sow the seeds of a friendship that isto sustain them through the triumphs and heartbreaks ()I the years tocome. ()deons release from 2o May.
OA Martin Sheen playsa successful New York playwright returning home to Dublin to bury his late father. and facing a pet‘tlotis emotional journey into the past as the memories begin to bite.
Izdinburgh ( ~amco from 1‘) May.
WHILE DAVID ROBINSON (‘o-dircciorofthis year's lidinburgh International Film Festival is in ( ’annes with the rest ofmoy ie hackdom. back in Iidinburgh is Tom (icrhardt. formerly one of the organisers of the Fringe l‘ilm I'estiy al. but who is co-ordinating the administratiy e end of the August event. It's hoped that the deadline for the completion of the programme will be pushed forward tosornctirne in June this year to allow the publicity machine toget under way earlier. and we could be expecting a substantial publication combining programme notesand screening I
schedule in a weighty l
The List 1‘) May — 1 June 198‘) 21