Restoration: ’art and costume departments are given free rein’



Arriving on the ermine coat-tails of The Madness 0! King George, Michael Hoffman’s comedy drama covers the similar ground of court intrigue though the sickness in need of a cure is national rather than individual. Robert Downey Jr is the impoverished, Iascivious physician Merivel, who gets his chance of females and fortune when asked to tend King Charles ll’s sick spaniel. The doctor’s jolly womanising commends him to Sam lleill’s similarly wandering monarch, who’s in need of someone to marry his mistress, Lady Celia (Polly Walker), as a diversionary tactic against his other paramours. Swayed by a knighthood and a country residence in Suffolk, Merivel gives up his vocation, but then finds himself falling in love with this wife-of-


The 17th century world of the court is recreated superbly in mock

) Greenaway fashion, with the art and

' costume departments given free rein,

l and Downey bounces around his adult

~ playpen to good comic effect. It is

1 when the tone darkens in the latter

i stages that his lack of depth as an actor is exposed. Thrown into the midst of the Great Plague and the Great Fire of London, he has to find

I professional redemption and becomes

1 romantically involved with Irish

I mental patient Meg Ryan (a rather

curious cameo). Unfortunately, it takes

someone with more gravitas than i Downey to pull off the change in i mood believably. ' Never an outright condemnation of the monarchy Sam Neill’s king, although egotistical, is too likeable and life at the palace is too much fun the human horrors depicted seem more a force of nature or fate rather than the result of an inequitable

Restoration (15) (Michael Hoffman,

David Thewlis. 118 mins. From Fri 15. General release.

distribution of wealth. (Simon Wardell) '

[HERE- LA canemoms

La Cérémonie: ‘masterly’

l’r‘o\ iiieial. uneducated l5rance. Beautiful. middle- aged (‘atherinc

UK , 1995) Robert Downe y Jr, Sam Neill,


What we have here is the most successful homegrown German movie of all time. a farce along classic lines and. as such. another tester to our preconceptions about our continental cousins' rather lumbering wit.

It starts when Doro (Katja Riemann) finds boyfriend Axel (Til Schweiger) ill flugrmne with another woman. thus giving the excuse she needs to chuck him out. When she later discovers she's pregnant. however. she tracks him down to the new apartment where he‘s crashed with gay acquaintance Norbert (Joachim Krol). The latter‘s presence. naked. in Axel‘s wardrobe sets her to wondering whether there's something unexpected going on between her hunky ex and his new llatmatc.

Where director Sonke Woitmann's film wins out is in its sympathies for Norbeit‘s simmering affections. its

affectionate portrayal of his catty.

cross-dressing pal Walter (Rufus Beck).

and the suggestion that ostensibly ' straight Axel's desires may not be as narrow as he‘d like to admit. L'nfortunatcly. while it‘s the characterisation that scores. the movie puts its east through far too many plot- hoops for their own good. Just when you think it’s gone all subversive. there’s a frantically crass last reel and a finale that seems to wind tip endorsing the hetero coupledorn the piece has previously been knocking down. More laughs to be had than in any other Germany comedy. but a touch more nous would have made it more than the rather moderate diversion the filmmakers have ended tip with. (Trevor Johnston) The Must Desired Mun (Die Beivegle Mir/iii) (IR) (SH/Ike ll’m'riiimm. (fer/nun): [995) TI! .S'i'liiveigei: KUIjU Riemann. Jmlt'illlll Km]. ()8 mins. I’rmii l’ri l5: lit/lllblll'Q/l Film/muse.

The Most Desired Man: ‘moderate diversion’

, (Jacqueline Bisset) takes on strange live—in maid

l SophietSaiidrinc

l lioiinaii’c) to help

maintain her lovely btit isolated home. Her family

l husband (icoi'ges and

i teenagers Melinda and (iilles find Sophie odd

l but \ery efficient. A local

I postal clerk. Jeanne

l (Isabelle lluppert). is

I hatefully obsessed with (‘athci'iiie's stature and

l befriends the maid to

infiltrate the home. As

Sophie. w ho is illiterate.

I strives to conceal her

deficiency. it emerges that

both she andlcanne hide

guilty secrets of a far

more deadly nature. (‘laudc (.‘habrol's

iiiastei'ly adaptation of

Ruth Reiidell's .-l

./iu/eeiiieiit l/i Sin/re

invests her crime story

with profound depth and

plausibility. much of it

due to excellent. insightful

performances from

lluppei't and Bonnaire.

Chabrol humorously

describes this as “the last

French Twist: ‘naughty and fun’

[ME— FRENCH rwrsr

Gazon Maudit, the film’s original French title, says it all: ‘maudit’ means cursed or confounded, while ‘gazon’, the word for lawn, is also slang for female pubic hair. Something like The Muff From llell would come closer than French Twist, but Josiane Balasko’s mischievous sexual farce is still a very funny movie whichever way you look at it.

The director and co-writer herself stars as the cause of all the trouble, a cigar-chomping bull dyke whose van breakdown outside Victoria Abril’s house sparks off the unlikeliest of relationships. Having had quite enough of hubby Alain Chabat’s constant philandering, this wife and mother takes a shine to the dungaree- clad interloper, and pretty soon there’s a new variation on the ménage-a-trois in situ, with the misbehaving monsieur discovering he now only has a half- share in the conjugal rights.

In essence, it’s not that far removed

| from the current German frolic The Most Desired Man - in that it throws an ostensibly straight couple into confusion by pairing off one of their number with some newtound gay love interest but the dynamic of the characterisations in Balasko’s film is probably more convincing.

Having claimed Dépardieu’s affections in Bertrand Blier’s Trap Belle Pour Toi, for instance, the charismatic presence of Balasko the actress is never in doubt, and her scenes with Abril have both pointed humour and a kind of quizzical tenderness that gives the film its heart. Of course, this being a

the subversion level does subside the . longer the film goes on. It is naughty and fun though, engagingly French, and you’ll surely want to talk about it afterwards. (Trevor Johnston)

French Twist (Gazon Maudit) (15) (Josiane Dalasko, France, 1995) Victoria Abril, Josiane Balasko, Alain Ghabat. 105 mins. Subtitles. From Fri 8. Glasgow: GF T. Edinburgh: Filmhouse.

relatively mainstream affair, there has to be a happy ending for everyone, and

Marxist film‘ while he again coolly and elegantly assays the discreet complacency of the bourgeoisie. You could view it as a cautionary Nietzsclican parable on madness and reading. but. in more practical terms. it's like a reworked Heaven/v ('i'eiiriirex riieeting a liui'opcan. thinking-titans The Hand lli/ltli Rue/(Ly '/'/t(' ('I'm/lt'. (,‘liabrol clearly likes to ponder. but philosophy doesn't stand in the way of this intriguing and ultimately horrifying drama where morality is a luxury. success is invidious. and failing to read people can bring about [.11 (ere/Norrie the death sentence. (Gio .\‘lacl)oiiald) l.u ('erenumie ( l8) (("liim/e (’liu/n‘nl. l‘TU/H‘t’. [995! .S'urit/rine Buririuire, lm/iel/e Hiipperl, Jacqueline Bissel. l// mins. l-‘mnt Fri 15: (i/(tx‘enit‘ l’i'lni 'I'lieurre. I’m/ii Fri" 2‘): Iz'i/iribrir‘eh Film/muse.

The List 8-21 Mar 1996 23