l I ALMOST AN ANGEL(PG) 2 Following a spell in

hospital. professional thiel and all-round baddie Paul ‘Crocodile Dundee' Hogan thinks he‘s died and become a goodie-an angel. to be precise. Abandoning his wicked ways, he discoversthat “doing good deeds and helping people actually leels pretty good‘. Aaah. See review. Cannons Glasgow and Edinburgh. UCls from Wed 26 Dec.

IARACRNOPROBIMPG) The perfect antidote to Charlotte‘s Web-the sleepytranquillity ola California seaside town is shattered by an invasion of deadly spiders. Jetl Daniels stars as the lamily doctor who conquers his creepie-crawlie hangup to save the day. See teature. Cannons Glasgow and Edinburgh. UCIs from Fri 4 Jan.

I Blood Red (15)

Eric and Julia Roberts. Denis Hopper and Giancarlo Giannini starin Peter Masterson's typically anti-materialist drama. which tellsthe story olan immigrant Italian wine~producinglamily struggling to survive when Hopper‘s unscrupulous developer tries to oustthem from theirvineyards. UCIs from Fri 4Jan.


The screen adaptation of Ian McEwan's novel (scripted by Harold Pinter) stars Rupert Everett and Natasha Richardson as an English couple on holiday in Venice belriended by a pair of seductive butsinister strangers (Christopher Walken and Helen Mirren). The city's romance turns sour as the tour become

entangled in a web of bizarre and dangerous sexual games. Paul Schrader directs. See preview. Edinburgh Cameo from Fri 4 Jan.


l [-

Menace In Venice

Paul Schrader directing a screenplay by Harold Pinter from a novel by , Ian McEwan sounds promising, but Kenny Mathieson. after meetingthe 5 director, found Comfort of Strangers disappointing.

Paul Schrader could never be accused ofcourting easy success. As a director. he has consistently taken on difficult and challenging subjects. including the pornography industry in Hardcore, labour relations in Blue Collar. the life oftroubled Japanese writer and would-be messianic leader Yukio Mishima. and the kidnapping of Patty Hearst. His screenwriting credits include American Gigolo, Taxi Driver. and The Last Temptation of Christ. not exactly mainstream Hollywood fare.

His latest film The Comfort of Strangers is no less challenging than most of its predecessors; sadly. though. it does not really rise to that challenge, despite the combined input of novelist Ian McEwan, screenwriter Harold Pinter and Schrader himself. Schrader succeeds admirably in finding a visual analogue for Pinter‘s oblique. at times opaquely indirect script, but the end result is less than satisfying.

‘1 had always been an admirer of the films which Harold Pinter and Joseph Losey had done together, and I saw an opportunity here to make a film ofthat type. but in my own style,‘ Schrader explains. ‘I didn‘t try to impose my literary voice on top of Pinter‘s. but I did try to impose my visual voice.

‘I had to try to find a fresh Venice of my own. because the city has been


photographed so much. I decided to

go back to the Eastern. Byzantine roots of the city. and concentrate on those areas where that style predominates. which I think also enhanced the mysterious air of the film. This is a classic Pinter founhandcr. and it is very difficult to give it a visual life without violating the purity of the words and the sense ofunderstatement.

‘I think Harold and I both added themes to the original one of the book, which made it a rich mixture. The theme ofthe book. which is really quite bald, is basically that no amount ofcivilisation can paper over the antagonism between men and women. which I‘m not so sure about anyway. Harold added a theme about the persistence ofchildhood experience. and how that never ends. and then I added a Mishima-type theme about the fatal attraction ofbeauty.‘

Schrader took on the film after a project of his own, Forever Mine, had fallen through at another studio. and was attracted by the moral complexity of both language and behaviour in the four characters. Rupert Everett and Miranda Richardson play a disingenuous English couple who fall into the hands of a strange Italian pair (Christopher Walken and Helen Mirren), with ultimately tragic consequences.

While Everett fills the visual

requirements ofthe role (‘ifwe keep going on about his beauty.‘ Schrader says. ‘and the audience don‘t agree. then we‘re in trouble‘). his performance fails to ignite much ofa spark. although Walken is suitably menacing as the mysterious Robert.

‘Pinter has an absolute aversion to saying anythingoutright. His characters are always saying one thing and meaning something slightly different, and I was very attracted to the layers of nuance and innuendo. and the odd or inexplicable actions in the script, which are in facf perfectly explicable at a deeper psychological level.‘

Schrader‘s own progress from film critic to screenwriter to director is charted in the fascinating Schrader 0n Schrader (Faber). a collection of his writings and interviews. but the initial sense of freedom and forbidden pleasures which the movies engendered (brought up in a strict Protestant family, he did not see his first film until he was seventeen) has now passed.

‘Yes, it has. I‘m 43, and I have a family, and the idea ofchanging the world, or even changing movies. no longer seems viable. I just hope to make interesting films that I can be proud of now.‘

The Comfort of Strangers opens at the Cameo, Edinburgh on Friday 4 January. Schrader 0n Schrader is published by Faber at £12. 99.

18 The List 21 December 1990- 10 January 1991