When Alexander Novak (Alan Cumming), a young Scot searching for his family heritage. visits Prague to obtain a missing piece of newsreel footage, he falls in love with the city and, more dramatically. with Elena, a young film archivist (Sandrine Bonnaire). This is, however, more than a story of an innocent abroad: Prague is filled with romance and subtle humour. It is a truly European film with a warm heart.
The Czech capital is the perfect backdrop for this story. Elegant and infused with its own particular magic, it has survived a turbulent past. is undergoing a present transformation and looks forward to a more stable future. Likewise, the character of Alexander. whose family suffered Nazi persecution. whose present is emotionally confused, but who ultimately fulfils an optimistic role as his voyage of self-discovery comes to an end.
Cumming‘s light comic approach is endearing in its own way. and he is at his best in the scenes where his almost childlike clumsiness comes to the fore — notably when communication is a problem. and his natural charm has to knock down the barriers. One halfofcabaret act Victor and Barry. this is his first screen role and it is encouraging to see the award-winning Scots stage actor taking equal billing with Euro heavyweights Bonnaire and Bruno
Prague: ’a truly European film with a warm heart’
Ganz. Ganz is particularly impressive as Josef, the director of the film archive and also the lover of Elena, and he glides through his role achieving just the right balance between geniality and dignity. Prague has two other notable pairings. Writer/director Ian Sellar and producer team up again after the acclaimed Venus Peter, while Young‘s production company strikes up an international partnership the French company Constellation and co-producer Claudie Ossard. whose credits include Betty Blue and
l Delicatessen. It is heartening to know that Scotland is playing a leading role in current European filmmaking; that this endeavour has produced the engagineg atmospheric Prague is cause for celebration in itself. (Alan Morrison)
Prague (12) (Ian Sellar, UK/France/Czech, 199]) Alan Cumming, Sandrine Bonnaire, Bruno Ganz. 89mins. Edinburgh: Cameo.
to et the combination olhumourand
Born In Troon, Sellar studied photography at Napier University before becoming a runner on My Childhood, the first-part oi Bill Douglas’s acclaimed trilogy. He Ieapt into directing via the National Film and Television School. His first feature was Venus Peter (1989).
‘The allure of Prague was that It is In the middle of Europe on the map, and the story, of course, is about what is at the heart of Europe. When I got there I discovered that Its beauty and exoticlsm are exactly like the way you would want to imagine them. In fact, the difficult thing for me as director was
Iig tness with something that was still pretty dark underneath.
‘I didn’t have a common language with the Czechs I was working with, but we still managed to work together.
Film culture is very strong there, and one of the good things about film is that it is naturally international. There’s a bit at the end of the film where Alexander is trying to tell the story about him and a baby and a woman, while the Czech policeman ls pointing to a photograph of his absent wife. They don’t speak the same language but they are two people who are communicating very well. It’s a strange mixture of desperately needing a common language and not needing it at all.’
GAS FOOD LODGING
At a time when Hollywood’s grip on UK cinema screens has never been stronger and we are accustomed to viewing the world through Tinseltown eyes, Gas Food Lodging is a breath of fresh air. A supremely confident debut by writer/director Allison Anders, it brings a welcome woman‘s perspective to the parts of America that other films do not reach.
Nora (Brooke Adams) is a waitress I
at the Pull-Off Plaza Truck Stop in Laramie. New Mexico. struggling to make ends meet at the same time as bringing up two teenage girls on her own. Her elder daughter, Trudi (Ione Skye). is fuelled with adolescent anger and cynicism, while the younger Shade (Fairuza Balk) tries her best to keep the family together by finding a man for her mother and continuing a long search for her absent father. Each of the women is alternately charmed and disappointed by the men in their life, but all are heading towards a period when life-changing decisions will be forced upon them.
Despite this surface plot sketch, Gas Food Lodging is a world away from the typical Hollywood attempt to make a women‘s issues movie. One only has to imagine Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts and Winona Ryder in the three lead roles to realise how much of this film‘s
integrity would be lost. Although based on Richard Peck‘s book Don '1 Look And It Won't Hurt, this is very much Allison Anders‘ movie. A turbulent early family life in rural Kentucky encouraged her to spend her teens continually running away from home — often ending up in jail or in foster homes — before moving brieﬂy to London where she became an unmarried mother at the age of 18. Bringing her own experiences — and her undoubted talent as a filmmaker— to these characters gives them a resonance beyond their screen lives.
The setting is also very important: the impermanence of the trailer park where the family lives underlines the
Gas Food Lodging: ’a welcome women’s BBfSDBCllVB’
transient nature oftheir emotional
" relationships. while the slow pace of Laramie life is reflected in the laid-back development ofthe narrative. It is as if all the men are placed in one big colander, then shaken up gently with. hopefully, the best ones remaining at the end. And while serious themes are being treated with compassion and insight, it‘s important to remember that this is also a very funny movie, where humour is a vital ingredient in coping with everyday life. (Alan Morrison)
Gas Food Lodging (15) (Allison
Anders, US, 1991) Brooke Adams. lone Skye, Fairuza Balk. 102 mins. From Sun 1 Nov: Glasgow Film
; adolescence, and then I became Trudi.
, basically, and had a bunch of imaginary characters and a hysterical pregnancy because there was a lot of l
A graduate of UCLA Film School, she worked as assistant to Harry Dean Stanton during the shooting of Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas. She is currently editing her next movie, Mi Vida Loca, about Chicana gangs.
‘I identify with all of the female characters. As an unmarried mother, I think Nora maybe had a toughertime than I had in some ways, but even with her fights with her daughter, I could relate both as the daughter and as the parent. Shade I identified a lot with because she’s so introspective and trying to hold things together. There’s a , part of me that was always trying to do ' that with my family- until I hit
‘When I was 15 I went crazy,
; traumain myadolescence.lhadthe ' ' gang rape experience that Trudi talks
about in the movie, and a very mean stepfather and violent home life. Trudi is a lot like my teen years, and still is in a lot of ways. For a long time I had both the faith of Shade and the sarcasm of flora about relationships, but lately, because of a recent disappointment, I find myself identifying so much with
Trudi and her anger. I can tell what
state I’m in whichever of them I’m identifying with.’