The Flower Of My Secret: ‘complex, fragile and affecting’



Just when it seemed that Pedro Almodévar’s distinctive style of camp comedy had become self-conscious and repetitive, he returns with not only his best film since Women On The Verge 0! A Nervous Breakdown, but arguably his best ever. More crucially, The Flower 0! My Secret marks a move away from hysterical, high camp comedy towards the more serious melodrama he attempted, less successfully, in lligh lleels— with which this shares its leading actress, Marisa Paredes. But while the subtler style and would-be seriousness of the earlier film was at best half-fanned, here it is mature, controlled and often deeply moving.

Paredes brings dramatic weight and a painful sense of emotional vulnerability to the role of Leo, a highly successful but embarrassed author of popular romance novels. Despite the protection afforded by her jealously guarded pseudonym, Amanda

Gris, Leo is tired of frivolous escapism, and her latest novel reflects the bleak despair she feels in her own life. Her marriage to a mostly absent NATO officer is on the rocks, her constantly arguing mother and sister (Chus Lampreave and Bossy de Palma) make unreasonable demands upon her already scarce emotional resources, and she in turn depends heavily on her solid psychologist friend Betty (Carmen Elias).

Those hoping for continuity will be gratified to find the same arch humour, sly irony and coincidence- ridden plotting, but without the same forced, farcical elements. Here they are underpinned by a new, deeper sense of emotional hurt, resulting in a more complex, fragile and affecting depiction of human behaviour. If, after years of artistic stalemate, this is the direction in which Almodovar’s work is moving, then there is a great deal to look forward to. (Nigel Floyd)

The Flower Of My Secret (15) (Pedro Almodévar. 1995, Spain) Marisa Paredes, Juan Echanove, Bossy de Palma. 101 mins. From Fri 26: Edinburgh Cameo. From Fri 2: Glasgow Film Theatre.


down. There is something strangely familiar about The Innocent Sleep. The title. a quote from Maelret/r. recalls the evocativer noirish names of pulp novellas and atmospheric movies frorn years gone by. The cast seetns to be packed with recognisable faces. and even the most fleeting of supporting characters can be associated with sortie film or TV progratnme.

Taking a llitchcockian premise of a young homeless man (Rupert (iraves) witnessing a gangland style execution by the Thames. the film becomes a protracted pursuit as he discovers that the death is reported as a suicide and that the killers are on his trail. In his panic. he tries to confide in hard-bitten hack Billie (Annabella Sciorra) just as the chase takes on a new urgency.

Unfortunately. the filth doesn't.

Although line looking and with a few subtle touches. the whole thing seems to operate in one gear and resolutely

avoids the temptation to change up or

Debutante director Scott Michell shows a keen eye for detail and draws an unexpectedly convincing performance from Graves. here playing a Scousc dosser rather than his usual genteel type in a period piece. His nervous innocence is in stark contrast to Michael Gambon's lumbering menace; but positioned uncomfortably between the two. Sciorra seems miscast and out of place. Still. The Innoeent Sleep is an interesting. consistently watchable film and. while no classic. has enough in the way of good intentions and underlying quality to suggest bigger and better things for the filmmakers in the future. (Anwar Brett) 'l'lte Innocent Sleep (/5) (Sent! Mic/tell. 3 UK. 1995) Rupert (imves, Annabel/u .S'ei'm'ru. Mic/me! (Iamlmn. 9‘) mins. Front Fri 26. General release. l

The Innocent Sleep: ‘operates in one gear’

Waiting To Exhale: ‘seldom connects with reality’


A surprise box office success in the States, where it was picked up by the hitherto elusive black female audience, this soapy account of four African-American women engaged in a frustrated search for Mr Right pushes all the comet buttons but seldom connects with reality. Adapted from Terry McMillan’s best-selling novel by actor-tumed-dlrector Forest Whitaker, the film focuses on a quartet of attractive, appealing and comfortably well off black women who have so few material worries that their only problems would have to be emotional.

As the blandly beautiful Savannah, a career woman trapped in a doomed relationship with a married man, squeaky clean Whitney Houston is even more insipid than in The Bodyguard, despite the odd swear word and a hint of sexual desire.

Angela Bassett suffers exquisitely as Bernadine, the dutiful wife who put her own ambitions on hold while helping to build up her husband’s business - only to be dumped for a white woman. lela iiochon‘s iiobin oozes sex appeal, but suffers from chronically low self-esteem and has an uncanny ability for picking men who want only her body. it’s all very schematic and 80s.

For most of the excessive running time, this is like eavesdropping on a series of informal self-help classes for women whose men done them wrong. There is very little that relates to black women’s lives per se, and Whitaker is content merely to point the camera at the actors, who squeeze more from the banal dialogue than it deserves. (liigel Floyd)

Waiting To Exhale (15) (Forest Whining us, 19%) Whitney Houston, Angela Bassett, loretta Bovine, Lela Boclron. 121 mins. From Fri 26.

General release.



Sister My Sister: ‘slow bulld-up'

The meticulous and pristine household of Madame l)anzard (Julie Walters) and her somewhat dowdy daughter. lsabelle (Sophie 'l‘hurslield). is the envy of IO}: l.e Mans. They are amongst the most respectable of the bourgeoisie. and their servants ~ Christine (Joely Richardson) and her younger sister l.ea (Jodhi May) are perfect in every detail. But the domineering madame soon grows suspicious as the sisters become ever more withdrawn. insular and clingy. The victims of an abusive convent upbringing. their only solace is in each other. to a point where their love becomes sexual with brutal consequences.

Based on true events (which also inspired Jean (lenet's 'I’lre .lluitlx) Nancy Meckler‘s film boasts some solid performances. a weighty script and low key direction. i'ler background in the theatre. however. is apparent in the film's staginess. lts slow build- up. endless meaningful glances and dirt .‘tionless meandering make the whole affair disappointinglydull. Amidst the strange. stilted dialogue. Julie Walter‘s animated performance as the austere yet eccentric matriarch is the only thing that lightens the film and maintains the audience's patience. Too played down and too weighed down. the film is rescued at the last moment by its gory and shocking ending. which is superbly done.

Admirable for being a film with women

characters only and

successfully making a brutal point about the past experience of lesbians. it's just too slow where it really should be suspenseful. It would be three to see a “women s or 'lesbian' film that for once didn‘t involve abuse. incest or murder and wastrt so bloody downbeat. ((iill Harris) Sister My Sister ( l5) (Mt/rev .ller'klel: UK. /‘/‘).‘-) Julie Hit/let's, .lm'lv It’te/tunlxun. .lm/ltt .‘iluv. «W III/II). l’mnt I’m 26: lz'ilt‘trlntt'e/i l-ilrn/touxe.

The List 26 Jan-8 Feb I996 25