n Englishman abroad
One of Sweden’s biggest box office hits of recent years was directed by a man from Hampshire. Trevor Johnston talks to House of Angels" director, Colin Nutley.
Usually, if British directors go anywhere, they go to Hollywood. Gosport‘s very own Colin Nutley. however, has avoided the lure of the Yankee dollar, but has fallen hook. line and pine tree for cinematically unfashionable Sweden. building up an extraordinary reputation as the most ‘Swedish‘ and most successful ofhis adopted country's current moviemakers. In Britain, he‘s known merely for his work in television, previously gaining most attention for the controversial Anglo-Scandinavian teen love story Anni/ta. Across the North Sea, however, his third Swedish feature House of Angels has been a phenomenon at its native box office — a success that‘s led to wider international exposure and a UK release for this engaging. half-serious rural comedy.
‘I think it’s taken an outsider like me to be able to get away with using Abba on the soundtrack and putting old folk songs in there. because to a Swedish director, all that stuff would seem too crashingly obvious,‘ reﬂects Nutley, who ﬁrst visited the place on a children‘s TV shoot in the mid-70s. ‘But the fact is, the audiences love it. People go and see this
picture six or seven times. For them. it's a celebration ofthe Swedish character, ofthe Swedish soul.‘ Even so, Nutley’s the first to admit that House ofAnge/s hardly lets the Swedes off lightly. for its chronicle of clashing city slickers and country folk is effective not only on a national level, but as a universally relevant portrayal of how tolerance can flourish in the most gentle of surroundings.
After a rural community’s elderly patriarch suddenly snuffs it. anticipation runs high that his
: neighbour. wealthy and ambitious farmer Axel (Sven ; ' Wolter), will buy up the old man’s property. Yet all
concerned have reckoned without the surprise appearance of his grand-daughter Fanny (Helena Bergstrom), who turns up astride a Harley Davidson with leather-clad companion Zac (Rikard Wolff), and decides to move into the house. This pair of cabaret entertainers are unlike anyone the townsfolk have ever met before, and suspicions begin to rise that they‘ll surely bring Big City ways — drugs! homosexuality! ethnic minorities! — to this sleepy comer of the country.
‘What you have to remember is that while we think of Sweden as this very liberal and together kind of
House of Angels: ‘engaging, halt-serious rural comedy' society, a lot of Swedes are actually second- generation farmers and as such are very fearful of outsiders and things they don’t understand.‘ Nutley explains. ‘You can certainly trace the impact of the film to worries over the rise ofthe far right. but at the same time it makes them feel good about being Swedes. At a moment when they’re also concerned with losing their individuality within the EEC. this sense of identity has become very dear to them. Abba
, songs and all.‘
Although slow to start. Nutley‘s film carefully
builds up the tension between the two parties and
truly kicks into place when the local people - ostensibly decent. practically narrow-minded — harangue the newcomers out of misplaced anxiety and sheer gut mistrust of anyone different. When you get down to it, there’s an effective and sinewy dissection of racism and bigotry beneath House of Angels’ benign surface: its very deceptiveness is something blunt-instrument moviemakers would do well to note.
House of Angels opens a! the Edinburgh Film/rouse on Sunday 25 July.
Ill-III You’ve been
After the intense erotic chamber pieces Monsieur Hire and The Halrdresser’s Husband, writer/director Patrice Leconte’s latest film, Tango comes across as, quite literally, a breath of fresh air. Amidst a Panavlsion expanse of blue skies, leading man Thierry lhermltte’s biplane pirouettes its way across the horizon, while down below, spouse Mlou-Miou is taking the opportunity of repaying her unfaithful hubby in kind with a little sexual liaison of her own. Back on terra finna, the enraged flyer consults his uncle, lodge and bachelor
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Phillipe lloiret, whose advice is that it’s better to be a widower than divorced. And how to accomplish this next step? Well, one could do worse than try hitman Richard Bohringer, who recently bumped off his own adulterous wife . . .
All of which - a provocative, breezy lest of a film - comes from the imagination of a man who’s been happily married to the same woman for the past 21 years. ‘l’m conscious that it was a little difficult for her to receive this film,’ reckons Leconte, with wry Parisian understatement, ‘but the question the film asks is more of an existential than anecdotal one. A lot of the time our marriage is really wonderful, but at other times I really find myself wanting completer the opposite. It’s not like I want to screw around every minute of the day, but i just wonder why I feel so incoherent
r about it all.’
its stellar French cast, bolstered by cameos from the likes of Jean Hochefort (The Hairdresser’s Husband
THE FENCING MASTER O JURASSIC PARK 0 PARIS
himself) and ol’ Chanel features Carole Bouquet, the shaggy-chien road movie comes over more like a soft- grained Bertrand filler film than the tautly-coutrolled intimate dramas of Leconte’s recent work - and just like his compatriot Biler’s work it’s been accused of rampant misogyny by the French critics. ‘Yes, that’s my problem,’ sighs Leconte in response. ‘I can’t believe that the ambiguity of the film has escaped them. The characters who are anti-women, lloiret and Bohringer, you look at them and they have completely empty lives. How can anyone give credence to these men, they’re complete zeros.’ (Trevor Johnston)
Tango (15) (Patrice Leconte, France, 1993) chhard Bohringer, Philippe Hoiret, Thierry lhermitte. 90 mlns. From Sun 18: Glasgow Film Theatre. From Fri 23: Edinburgh Cameo.
- _-c- .__l The List 16—29 July l99317