_ Strapped up

Alan Morrison examines the unusual case of The Snapper and its director, Stephen Frears.

There are two main gripes about British film talent: that it either gets seduced by the Hollywood dollar or has UK television as its only outlet. The unique history of The Snapper belies both. A massively successful BBC2 screening earlier this year was but the overture to an ecstatic reception at Cannes and a wide UK cinema distribution. For director Stephen Frears, it also marked a welcome homecoming after the Oscar success of Dangerous Liaisons and The Grifters. Most recently seen directing Hoffman, Davis and Garcia in the unfairly dismissed Accidental Hero, Frears was convinced to make the trans-Atlantic trip back to Britain simply by the sheer class of Roddy Doyle's screenplay.

‘In the most obvious sense, it is very funny and very touching, and it's also very modem,’ says the Leicester-born filmmaker. ‘It’s about people like you and me. people who you see walking down the street. This is how people in Britain live. in these sorts of houses, on these sorts of estates, with this sort of intimacy. They live in a way that would make the English miserable, but the Irish somehow enjoy themselves and lead a very robust life. And I'm sure

that’s true of the Scots too.’

The Snapper returns to Barrytown in north Dublin, familiar from The Commitments, where the Curiey family (a transformation of the previous film’s Rabbitts) live out their close-knit existence, bantering affection and expletives in equal measure. The film undoubtedly stands up as a comic masterpiece in its own right, with Frears choreographing the cut and thrust of Doyle‘s dialogue, and making comparisons with the soul-powered success of The Commitments irrelevent.

‘That pressure was removed because we weren’t making it for the commercial cinema,’ says Frears of working in the earlier film’s shadow. ‘You knew that, if you were in competition, you were sunk; and, therefore, to make it quietly for television was a very sensible and realistic way of dealing with all that.’ .

That said, The Snapper now has to prove itself in the dog-eat-dog cinema market which shouldn’t be difficult, as it is the funniest, most uplifting British comedy of the year. Frears recognises the risks any cinema release involves, and is much happier when the material is allowed to speak for itself.

‘Whether the films are successful or not is secondary to actually getting to make them,’ he argues. ‘I don’t care if they're big or small or American or British. The truth is, if you can find material that touches people's hearts and makes them laugh if you get sent the sort of material that you can make a decent film out of you’re down on your knees with gratitude, regardless of what it’s going to cost.’

The Snapper. Odeon 4, Friday 20 Aug. 9. 30pm. and general release from Fri 27.

_ Blood lust

Although it’s billed as a Late light Shocker at the film festival, Michael llaneke’s second ieature Benny’s Video has as little in common with Brain Dead-style spiattertests as could be imagined. it’s a quiet, low- key work - the second instalment in a projected trilogy - dealing with the uniquely rnodern conluctlon oi video voyeurism and nrotlveless Inurder.

It’s about an isolated Austrian adolescent, whose tasclnation with brutal and bloody hagery leads to the killing of a young girl he Insets, appropriately enough, in a video rental store. Director lianeke is clear on the implications for the audience. “This caseisnotausnalone- iornreltls like a nrodel oi society. The persons in

the film are not really characters, not psychologically determined; they are templates for the viewer’s thirdtlng. The audience has to decide for itself how they would deal with this.’ ilaneke’s illrn is curioust detached, and consequently extraordinarily chilling, as it describes the habits of its classically alienated protagonist. The opening llages set the tone tor the rest ot the "II; a cucorder tllns thesiaughterotaplg, whichisthen replayed in cold, ale-no relish. ‘The shock elernent in the lllrn is to provoke the viewer’s conscience. The killing at anhais is not In itself a shock - we all not neat swaths - what is attacking is Benny’s Ionent oi rewind. You becorne conscious at a certain way ot looking at things that is

lt’s'thii moral vacuu- that torus ilanelre's centrfl preoccupation - whether tiuough the unexplained tallly suicide of his debut teature The Seventh Continent, or the gunman-run-

uok of his torthcoulng third. The atrium of Benny’s parents” motion when they tlnd out is telling. ‘Brnshing thingsunderthe capetis, atom, the III. than at the till. it's one way of hudling guilt. For the. it's a question howtoorlontateyoursoittoa better tutors, how to avoid looking at the now.’ (Anton Puluor)

Benny's Video, Fri 20, Base 1, 1045p.

I The Secret Garden comes as a late addition to the EIFF bill, screening in Cameo i on Friday 20 at 11.45am. The latest film by Agnieszka Holland (Europa Europa, Olivier Oliver), it marks the Polish-bom director’s first English language film and stars Maggie Smith.

I Stuart Craig, Production Designer of The Secret Garden has also been added to the masterclass list. Continuing this year's focus on design and art direction in the movies. he will take part in a question and answer session, following the film’s screening, at 2.15pm in Cameo 2. Those who rush out and buy their copy of The List as soon as it hits the streets can also check out another masterclass, this time given by Keva Rosenfeld and Karen Murphy, respectively director and producer of US indie Twenty Bucks. Rosenfeld was the artistic force behind acclaimed documentary All-American High, while Murphy’s production credits include True Stories, This Is Spinal Tap and Drugstore Cowboy. The film itself is a sort of financial La Ronde. with a $20 bill doing the rounds across America's social strata, from criminals to priests.

I The llrarnbule Pavilion on Lothian Road will undoubtedly be the place to

be this weekend, as the ‘Just Do It’ low-budget filmmaking event reaches its climax. Film fans with a ticket for an EIFF screening can drop by between 5—7pm that day to rub shoulders with upcoming talent over a free Drarnbuie. I One ot the roost positive things to come out of this year’s EIFF, even at this early stage, has been the Focus on Scandinavia and the role it has played into opening UK eyes to the wealth of filmmaking cunently taking place in the Nordic countries. Last Monday’s Scandic Forum revealed how the setting up of the Nordic Film and TV Fund three years ago has boosted film production in Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Denmark and Finland. For example, Iceland, with its population of around 260,000 manages to make between two and five films a year, and it is not unknown for domestic audiences to reach 50,000 for home- grown productions. The quality and diversity of the films on show at Edinburgh was encouraging and, given the many affinities between the Scots and their Scandinavian cousins, it could be time for the Edinburgh International Film Festival to make this mini-festival an annual event. In the same way that, in the past, Edinburgh has supported the work of American independent moviemakers, now could be the time for the EIFF to play a vital role in promoting what is obviously a very rich seam in international cinema - and one that could be of long-tenn benefit to the Scottish industry. (AM)

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