vet Tim Robbins. Adrian

terrifying. but ultimater

artisticand romantic

tostageaninternational productionofWagner’s


I Jacob's Ladder( Is) New York becomes a hellish nightmare for Vietnam

Lyne directs this

moving. horror story tinged w ith paranoia and conspiracy theories. Sec preview .

I Meeting Venust 12) A liuropean conductor faces

problems as he attempts

’I'unn/iuuser. l‘rom ()sear-w inning l lungarian director lstv an S\ abo. See preview

I Out ForJuslicel is) Steven Seagal muscles in for sortie serious street warfare as two childhood riyals lind themselveson either side of the law \v hen the future oftheir § neighbourhood is at stake.

b A IAHage In Harlemt ts) llarlots. hoods and innocent undertakers i people this lively adaptation of(‘hcsler llimes' cult novel. Robin (ii\ ens is the shady lady \\ ith the case. if not heart. of gold. on the run from . her ex-partner. See feature. I Recollections ofthe Yellow Houset ts) Wildly surreal and idiosyncratic movie from Portuguese writer director star .loao (‘esar Monteiro. A middle-aged \\ aster tries to seduce his landlady ‘s daughter. but ends up in an as} lum tor impersonating an army officer. See rev iew. I Stepping Out ( l’(i)l.i/a Minnelli finds time to teach a lap dance classol social misfits how to work together. he better people and master the soft shoe shuffle in between a couple of song-and-danee numbers. See prev iew

IUnderSuspiciont ls)

l.iam Necson isaslea/y . private eye whosctsup the material for divorce eases until he gets caught up in a double murder. An cllectne homage tollie tough tll ban crime llitlllc‘l\Hl llte SUN Sec


L . _ “The List 27 September— l(l()ctobcr1t)91

given the involvement of producer

Hungarian director lstvan Szabo. best known for the powerful Oscar-winning

drama Mephisto. has l

struck a lighter chord with his latest David Puttnam- produced offering Meeting Venus. an ironic peek at the rampant confusion inside a great European opera house. Trevor Johnston reports.

‘I think this film is very near to me.‘ reflects lstvan Szabo. ‘My problem with the films I‘ve made so far has been that they were honest but a little bit heavy. I thought. “Yes. good. good. but so difficult.” Sol wondered whether I could give the medicine with a little sugar to help the audience to take it. I’d never . found the story to do it really. so ,' .lleeu’ng Venus was a great experience for me.‘

It‘s late August and lstvan Slabo is in Edinburgh for the retrospective of his work at the Film Festival. This balmy Sunday afternoon finds us sharing a bench just offthe Royal Mile beside the law courts. curious tourists rubbernecking on the way past as we talk. Not that S7abo is a household name at all. but as the EIFF season showed. he has built up a formidable body ofwork over the last three decades. culminating in an 80s trilogy of films on European historical themes Meplusu). (‘olonel Red! and the less successful llanussen which created an affecting portrayal of human weakness within the wider political whole and which launched a very fine Austrian actor named Klaus Maria Brandauer on an international movie career. i

Having recently watched his films again and been particularly impressed by his 197‘) breakthrough film ('unfidence an affecting blend of relationship drama and World War Two paranoia - I‘m rather surprised to hear Szabo so readily play down the obvious quality of so much ofthis work. A man ofgreat passion for the cinema. and a compelling talker when he gets fired-up. it's clear that he‘s still on a high after completing illeeu'ng Venus. his first film in English. and.

David l’uttnam and leading lady (ilenn('lose.certain to be his highest-profile movie to date.

‘Puttnam wanted to make a film with me and sent me (i.K. (.‘hesterton's novel The Man Who Was T/zursday.‘ recalls the Hungarian. ‘I liked the book. so we had a meeting in Cannes a few years back. When we got together he seemed to be having quite a bad time ofit. so to relax him I began to tell him some anecdotes about the experiences I‘d recently had directing Wagner‘s Tunn/zuuser in Paris. There were three trade unions. a ballet strike. an orchestra strike. all these problems with bureaucracy. Suddenly David said “Stop! This is your next film!” I tried to say that this was just a few anecdotes but he got me to write a screenplay and it happened from there.‘

In the end. the central character becomes conductor Zoltan Szanto. convincingly played by Danish actor Niels Arestrup. who does indeed make you believe that he is a troubled artist and that Wagner means a great deal to him. While the escalating administrative problems befuddling the fictional ()pera Europa mount even higher. Szanto's struggle to get 'I‘ann/zauser on the road is further complicated by an affair with Glenn (‘lose‘s Swedish diva Karin Anderson (sung by Dame Kiri 'l‘e Kanawa. making a rare venture into Wagncrian repertoire). Torn between his art and the forces of commerce and self-interest that seek to stifle it. between his radiant leading lady and his wife and family at home in Budapest. Szabo sees his protagonist as ‘something of a 'l‘annhauser himself. a man between two different worlds. It‘s about how somebody who wants to create something mUst meet with himself. You cannot wake up real emotions in the audience without showing real

Neil Arestrop and Glenn Close in Meeting Venus.



honest emotions you rself.‘

However. .llet'ung Venus still leaves one with the feeling that Szabo four times nominated for the Best Foreign Film Academy Award - doesn‘t quite have the lightness of touch to bring off the many-stranded entertainment he's obviously aiming for. a sort of Day For .‘v'r'g/u At The Opera. And for all their screen presence. the Arestrup (‘lose romance has a rather secondhand feel to it. never matching the painful emotional truths of ( 'mzfident'e. for instance. While it's clearly a film that means a good deal to its maker. whose work will always retain its sense ofartistic commitment and credibility. as I listened to Svabo. l did begin to feel that ifonly he'd made a movie as good as the one he was talking about. then one might have responded to .l’leeling Venus rather more favourably.

‘It was a marvellous experience to have all these actors. actresses and technicians together from different countries.‘ Szaboenthuses. "l’o have all the obstacles ofthe language problems and the different mentalities and inferiority complexes and yet still do something together. Our shooting period was a celebration of Europe. We have a fantastic and beautiful culture. yet we are paralysed by the world. In the end we must be happy to have a performance in front of the safety-curtain wearing only raincoats because if we are good. it‘s fine. If we are honest. it's enough. The big show is not so important and. anyway. we don’t have the money. l-‘orget all that. Be honest. 'l'hat's what I‘m saying in this picture.‘

.llt't’ll'ng' Venus (/3) opens (I! (he ('unnun cinemas in lirlin/nu-gli and (i/usgniv (HI Fri 4.