The Kingdom: ‘subverts and redefines the stale
HEREI- THE KINGDOM
‘When things are sad. the children cry. When tliitigs are sorrowful. the grown- ups cry. But what are things when the building begins to cry." .»\ Downs Syndrome tnan and woman wash dishes and ponder the strange happenings in The Kingdom. :1 giant modern hospital where things are going slowly but seriously awry. Visually striking. densely plotted and hauntingly scored. Lars von 'l‘rier‘s soap opera achieves an extraordinary fusion of the comfortineg quotidian and the disturbingly weird.
While the hospital's director talks breezily about his pet project. ()peration Morning Air. an autocratic Swedish surgeon longs for home. a distraught mother seeks justice for her brain- damaged daughter. a young male doctor lusts after an older female nurse. Meanwhile. driver- less ambulances arrive at casualty. a hypochondriac old lady hears plaintive sobbing in a lift shaft. and
conventions of soap opera’
peculiar Masonic rituals are enacted in private by a doctors” secret circle. less obscure than The lilentent ()_/'(‘rime and less baroque than lz'uropa. von Trier's four-part 'l‘\.' series (collected as a two~ part movie) is both more coherent and more effective. with subtly disturbing images that chill the blood and disturb the mind. It's as if. constrained by the formulaic necessities of the genre. the director has had to allow his strange obsessions to seep out between the cracks. just as the water oozes from and undermines the foundations of the hospital. l.ike David Lynch's Twin Peaks before it. this simultaneouslv subverts and redefines the stale conventions of soap opera. Indeed. if Lynch had directed four episodes of er. they might have looked something like this. (Nigel Floyd) The Kingdom (/8) (Lars von Trier: [994, Denmark) Kirsten Rolf/es, (Iltita Nor/iv. Ernst-Hugo Jaregard. [33/146 mins. Subtitles. Sat 9/.S'un I 0. lidinlnug/z: ('ameo.
DRUGS 8: OELIRIUM
With 'l'rainspotting, Casino, Leaving [as Vegas and li’itlinail d2 [all opening within weeks of each other. crazed and debauched lifestyles are again at the forefront of cinema. Sometimes drugs and wild behaviour are used on film as an opportunity for star actors to indulge in some meaty ‘real’ acting; more often they capture a sense of edgy independence and
rejection of conservative mainstream values.
The Cameo‘s week-long Drugs & Delirium season features all-day screenings in Cinema 3 of a tantalising roster of notorious repertory titles. The likes of t‘v’aked Lune/t and Bad Lieutenant show excess taken to the level of art and are nicely balanced with some classics (Apocalypse Now, Wild At Heart) and a little light relief (Slacker. Dared A nd Confused). Drugs & Delirium runs at the Cameo, Edinburgh, from Fri S—T/zurs [5. See Listings for details.
With its sharp dialogue. quirky characters and offbeat humour. Barry Sonnenfeld's low-key adaptation of Elmore Leonard‘s best-selling crime novel brilliantly captures its juxtaposition of low-life characters. Hollywood settings and glamorous movie types. l’revious adapters of Leonard‘s work have insisted on straightening out the storylines and simplifying the oblique relationships. Sonnenfeld. though. knows it‘s all down to characterisation and performance. so having cast the right actors. he simply lets them do what they‘re good at.
After a jerky opening that jumps from Miami to New York and back again. the film settles into an easy. confident stride when loan shark (‘hili Palmer ('l’ravolta) tracks dry cleaner and insurance fraudster l.eo l)evoe (David l’aymer) from Las Vegas to Hollywood. En route Chili picks up a second job. shaking down unlucky gambler and 7.- grade movie-maker llarry Ximm (Gene Hackman). a schlock auteur with titles like Grotesque and The Slime People to his credit.
Chili being both a movie buff and a dedicated fan of Zimm's leading lady and love-interest. scream queen Karen Flores (Rene Russo). he soon catches the movie bug. So when llarry says he needs 8500.000 to buy a script that will be his Driving Miss Daisy. ('hili makes a mid-life career change. Trouble is. a pair of small-time hoods are trying to muscle in on the action and (‘hili‘s old
Miami rival is also in town. lis-cinematographer Sonnenfeld lensed both Raising :Irisona and .lIi/lers (tossing for the ('oen Brothers. and the same slyly satirical sensibility
is evident here. lntcrest tends to be sustained more by the individual scenes and smart exchanges than by the casual plotting. and a few of the Hollywood
g iii-jokes may slip by unnoticed. But the t
actors revel in screenwriter Scott
lirank‘s sharp dialogue and 'l'ravolta
shows his true star quality sleckly
. coiffured arid dressed in black from
head to toe. he‘s as cool as milk and as deadly as a rattlesnake. (Nigel l’loydl
I (let Shorty I /.‘-t (Harry Xonnenle/d. ('5‘. l /‘)‘)5) .loltn 'li'ttt‘o/ta. Danny l)el'tto. (leite Hawk/nan. lx’ene Russo. //() nit/ts. from l-‘ri If". (it'nera/ release.
‘Travolta shows his true star quality - sleekly coiftured and dressed in black from head to toe, he’s as cool as milk and as deadly as
Fittineg enough, Oliver Stone’s epic account of the life of Richard Nixon opens with the event for which the President will forever be remembered: the Watergate break-in. This is not, however, the conspiracy movie that one might have expected from Stone, even though he links Watergate — through the figure of Howard Hunt - to an unconstitutional security team that plugged earlier White House leaks, to assassination attempts on Fidel Castro and, ultimately, to the day in 1963 when Kennedy’s presidency came to a brutal end in Dallas. The political shenanigans are less important than discovering what makes Tricky Dicky tick.
Equally fitting are the closing images of five subsequent US Presidents honouring their disgraced predecessor at his funeral in 1994: America forgives Nixon in death. Stone also deals with the concrete achievements of the Nixon administration that are now given praise — opening up China, entering into dialogue with Brezhnev - but his real interest lies behind the scenes, in tender moments between Nixon and his wife Pat and in flashbacks to his upbringing on a poor Californian Quaker term.
In the title role, Anthony Hopkins is magnificent at capturing Hixon’s poisonous concoction of guilt, pain, anger and ambition. This is no mere impersonation: his Hixon is a brooding loner weighted down by an enormous
‘class’ chip on his shoulder. Even when the screen is flooded with too much political detail for an uninitiated British audience to tully grasp, Hopkins’s intriguing and emotionally truthful performance gives us something on which we can anchor our attention.
As in Natural Born Killers, Stone mixes visual techniques, using newsreels and TV debates to give legitimacy to his dramatisation of historical events. The ultimate problem, however, is that regardless of personal traumas, the tout-mouthed Nixon lied his way to the top and better men were sacrificed en route. Stone has only created sympathy for the devil. (Alan Morrison)
Nixon (15) (Oliver Stone, US, 1995) Anthony Hopkins, Joan Allen, James Woods. 192 mins. From Fri 15. limited
‘even when the screen is flooded with too much political detail for an uninitiated British audience to fully grasp, Hopkins’s emotionally truthful performance gives us something on which we can anchor our attention’
22‘The List 8-21 Mar 1996