Janusz Kaminski’s black-and-white images capture the authentic quality of unearthed newsreels for our fellow man. If li'l’ is abotrt lilliott discovering his own capacity to love by way of a sottlrttate front another planet. Schindler taps his and our essential humanity through compassion and action in the face

of virtually unparalleled horror.

Both films tap deep emotions. of course. but as Spielberg’s lesser achievements Always for instance. and the abominable Hook -v more than bear out, the director has not always retained such a frrtrt grasp on the fine line between true emotion and glutinous sentiment. Here. the film‘s enormous power comes frortr both the inherent impact of the material and the honourable restraint (again. hardly a noted constant iii the Spielberg oeuvre) with which the director has treated it. While Polish cameraman

Janusz Kaminiski’s black-and-white images capture the authentic quality of unearthed newsreels. Spielberg‘s fidelity to the shocking fact of history is courageous and unstinting. With frequent on-screen captions guiding and informing the viewer. .S'r‘lrr'm/leris‘ Us! is concerned as much with a documentary re-creation ofevents as it is \\ ith the narrative thread rtrnning through them. Although it HUN er slides into fake trimnphalism. the decision to tell the St‘ltirrtllmjudwr story otrt of all the liolocaust’s eneyclopacdia of poignant personal histories seems to offer a way of finding some shred of hope and dignity front the period; as such. it eschews the Stygian abyss of horror that might alienate a browbeatcn contemporary movie audience.


l without ever forgetting the inealculable suffering experienced by the victims. No one who sees .S‘r‘lrr'rrrllers Us“! could ever deny

that these things happened or remain slumped in the

apathy of hindsight. So many deaths. random

shootings. killings out of boredom pass before otrr

eyes that the spectre ofdesettsitisation helps its comprehend the enormity of the crimes on display. Evert rttore chilling is witnessing the logistical operation by which millions of Jews were rounded tip and transported across Europe to their deaths like animals bound for the abattoir. Some might criticise that such things are beyond the pale of what‘s

showable on screen in the fortn of mass entertainment. bttt the filth surely stops short ofthe kind of sickening exploitation represented by

. notorious slca/o efforts like $5 lair/termini! Camp.

Certainly. the film contains a nurrtber of highly (and

indeed appropriately t distressing images. but the lirittslt Board of Him (‘lassificatiorr‘s decision to grant it a i5 certificate underlines its sotrnd moral

If ET is about Elliott discovering his own capacity to love by way of a soulmate from another planet, Schindler taps his and our essential humanity through compassion and action in the face of virtually unparalleled horror.

.l/rlt‘t '/I.

liinally though. while it‘s a filrrt to discuss and

debate. not least becatrse of English actor Ralph

. l"iennes‘s extraordinary. chilling portrayal of Nazi

catrrp corrrntartdarrt Amon (ioetb. it’s first ofall a film to be seen. Not an experience to be undertaken lightly. but one that exists far above the forrnular round of industry awards. reviewer superlatist and star ratings. .Xt'lrr'm/lcr 's Us! opens In Scotland ()II Friday 4

_ Flight of


Where Chen Kaige’s flamboyant Farewell My Concubine sidesteps the issues, his fellow Fifth Generation compatriot Tian Zhuangzhuang

confronts the reality of China’s political upheavals head on in The Blue Kite. An honest and moving account of what it was like for an ordinary family to survive the ideological caprices of the 503 Mao

regime and the outright violent turmoil of the Cultural Revolution years, Tian’s

film tells it straight where others have, almost out of necessity, chosen a more metaphorical approach. The result has, inevitany perhaps, been prohibited from home distribution by the China Film Bureau, but completing post-production on the Hong Kong- financed undertaking in Tokyo, where the Chinese authorities couldn’t get their hands on the print, ensured that the film would get a highly publicised international release.

Released from his contract at the Belling Film Studio and thereby granted permission to visit Paris (where he did 44 interviews in one day) and london for The Blue Kite’s UK opening, Tian remains understandably cautious about overstating his case

given his keenness to carry on living 1 and working in China. While the narrative of the film, seen through the

eyes of young boy Tietou as he grows

up to witness the suffering inflicted

on his family by the ongoing atmosphere of Mao-inspired paranoia

and recrimination, certainly contains

elements from his own childhood, he’s swift to widen the focus of the


‘What I was trying to do was to

; portray on screen the kinds of ; everyday experiences that not just my

The Blue Kite: ‘honest and moving’

own family went through, but the lives lived by a whole generation, millions

and millions of people,’ he explains, a ? wiry chain-smoking figure who looks

slightly worn down by the demands of

v promotional duties, Western-style. ‘In

order to go forward into the future, we

have to understand our past, and the

best way to do that is through talking

about it and making films about it. I

i had hoped that the openness China

5 has been going through over the past few years would have allowed a

; discussion about these things, but it

sponsoredby BACARDI BLACK

l seems that the past is still a very

i sensitive issue.’ I Although he refuses to be drawn on 2 the specific elements of the film that

i may have incurred the dismay of the 3 Film Bureau ‘lt’s like a game with t 3 them, except you never quite know the

3 rules’ - The Blue Kite’s unstinting depiction of the suffering created by the chaotic zealotry of the Cultural Revolution can’t have gone down very well in official circles. The film’s reference to the sexual exploitation of young Party members at ‘dances’ held by high-ranking officials is certainly a sore point (as evinced by Beijing’s

i angry reaction to a recent BBC

E Timewatch programme on Mao, which

' expanded on these allegations). A

paragon of diplomacy, however, Tian in

person is wary of Western iournalists’ tendency to exaggerate the radicalism

of his own work (including the 1986

Tibetan chronicle Horse Thief) and the

films of his film school classmates

Chen Kaige and Zhang Yimou. ‘Because of all the foreign press

we’ve had, us filmmakers are treated

like heroes at home, and then people seem to expect that our work has to be more and more extreme in its political dimension,’ he maintains, very much his own man. ‘I don’t want to have that pressure hanging over

5 me. I want to tell the stories I want to

3 tell.’ (Trevor Johnston)

5 The Blue Kite opens on Fri 4 at the

: Edinburgh Filmhouse and Fri 11 at the

Glasgow Film Theatre.

The List 25 February—l0 March l‘)‘)-i 15