Jerry Zucker. the man behind US smash Ghost. Alan J. Pakula, director of Presumed Innocent. interviewed plus Longtime Companion and Paper Mask.
INDEX: 17 LISTINGS: WEEK ONE 32 WEEK TWO 33
As his compelling adaptation of Scott 'l‘urow‘s courtroom suspense bestseller Presumed Innocent comes to the screen. veteran writer/director‘Alan J. Pakula talks to Trevor Johnston.
"l‘he fact that every single one of the major characters turned out different from the way you expected them to be was very appealing to me, Finally. that's what we’re all about.‘ In these words Alan .I. l’akula describes what for millions of readers has been the attraction of former lawyer Scott ’l'urow’s absorbing fictional expose of the American legal system. Although slightly less detailed on screen than on the page. the narrative centres on the plight of Rusty Sabich (Harrison l’ord). an upright state prosecutor investigating the murder of his colleague and previously illicit lover ( 'arolyn l’olhemus ((ireta Scacchi. her l7S debut). and finds himself charged with the killing.
Before the jury reach their final decision. Sabich‘s marriage to wife Barbara t Bonnie Bedelia) is to be threatened. the reputations of his department head Raymond llorgan (Brian Dennehy) and case judge l.arren l.yttle (l’aul
i Winfield) probed. and the skill of his defending
lawyer Sandy Stern ( Raul .lulia ) assured. Not that
we're going to give anything away however. for
Warners‘ press notes on the film explicitly
request journalists not to reveal the ending or indicate whether Harrison Ford is guilty or innocent.
Sporting a noteworthy cropped haircut. Ford‘s low-key performance is the lynchpin of the piece and he was Pakula‘s first choice for the role.
‘Actually I was looking for the Henry Fonda of-iU
years ago. but he wasn‘t available.‘ chuckles the ()2 year-old whose Hollywood career has encompassed over three decades as producer and director. ‘I was looking for an actor who could seem like everyman. who was able to take the audience on a bizarre exotic journey without losing that sort of identification. Harrison has a sense of decency. but also a sense of mystery. His character is a rational man suddenly finding hirnselfout ofcontrol in the midst ofa sexual obsession.‘
So pervasive is Presumed Innocent's picture of moral ambiguity at every level of American society that one American commentator likened it to ‘Blue Velvet without the dialogue and decor in quotes‘. but in many ways it returns to the themes of Pakula‘s 7()s work where movies like
§ s. §\\
K lute. The Parallax View and All The President's Men offered a thoughtful, disturbing view of corruption running through the country‘s corridors of responsibility. He himself. however. is suprisingly unwilling to become too caught up with the achievements ofhis canon. ‘Reallyl don‘t look back too much because I don‘t want to end up as a bad carbon copy ofwhat I once was. But obviously there are certain themes you keep returning to because they have vitality for you. ‘Yes. I do like exploring different parts ofthe system to see how they work. All The President's Men was about the function of the press in a free society and maybe Presumed Innocent is about how the judiciary operates in that same society. I also deal with sex being used for things other than pleasure. sex as power struggle for instance. but I hope that in this film I don't point the finger and say “he is evil" or “she is evil". I just present the characters and it‘s up to the audience to come to their own conclusions.” Presumed Innocent (I 5) opens across ( ‘entral Scotland from Fri 28 Sept. See Film listings for further details.
_ Way Out East
With Walter Hill undergoing a
hackdom and Michael Mann silent
; sincethe excellentManhunter, there
are all too few exponents of the classic
thriller operating in Hollywood at present. A look at the latest crossover hit from the Hong Kong cinema shows this kind of commercial genre lilmaking at its most ecstaticalfy vigorous. John Woo‘s The Killer, described by its the director as an unabashed tribute to Martin Scorsese and Jean-Pierre Melville, turns the staple material of buddy-buddy
14 llic I N 2\ St‘jilcritlit‘r l l ()ctober l‘Nf)
The Killer gangland shoot‘em-up (childhood friends find themselves on opposing sides as cop and contract slayer) into a hyperactive essay in elegaic ultraviolence. As Woo‘s expertly staged mayhem results in a three-figure body count, the explosion of blood and bullets is underpinned by
I l l l i l
a pungent romantic fatalism most evident in the cataclysmic church-set showdown, where the hitman hero and blind heroine crawl towards each other amidst the gunfire.
In support of The Killer's screening at Edinburgh Filmhouse (Thurs 4 to Sat 6 Oct) this month, there‘s also a welcome survey of similarly high-powered eastern exports. Also from Hong Kong’s Film Workshop production house comes Chin Sui Ting‘s 1987 martial arts-cum-eftects extravaganza A Chinese Ghost Story (Thur 18, Fri 19 Oct), a frenzied kung In love story notable for the huge monster tongue malevolently menacing the hero and the kinetic energy with which the living and the dead fly across the screen.
Slightly more measured in tone is Stanley Kwan‘s absorbing Taiwanese tale of the supernatura|.1987's Rouge (Sun 21, Mon 22 Oct). wherein a beautiful Thirties courtesan reappears in an 80s city for a rendezvous with the partner she joined in a double suicide pact some fifty years earlier. Both a yearning love story and an effective past/present commentary, Kwan’s impressive feature gathers a wider following with each screening. Which is something that could also be said of King Hu’s 1969 masterpiece A Touch of Zen (Sun 28 Oct only), an epic Ming Dynasty adventure whose breathlesst graceful fight sequences climax when heavily-armed Buddhist monks take to the air. Incredible stuff, don’t miss it.