Kids: ‘offers no comfortable solutions’
A day in the life of a rag-tag bunch of New York teenagers. Simultaneously a stylisth cool, hip portrait of urban youth and a gritty, documentary approach to youth culture, Larry Clark’s film has courted much controversy over its sublect matter. While the ‘moral maiority’ scream blue murder at the images of underage sex, it’s the way the youths are portrayed (matter-of-fact, with naturalistic performances from non-actors playing characters their own ages) rather than what they are doing (drugs, sex) that the film’s critics seem to be having problems with.
The strongest scenes are those where the camera hangs out with the kids, smoking dope, rapping, skateboarding. It’s fly-on-the-wall stuff, almost as though the kids had filmed themselves rather than an adult
doing it. Holding these scenes together (although they don’t really need it) is a plot concerning AIDS- carrier Telly’s sexual conquest of virgins and an ex-girlfriend’s trauma over her HIV infection as she struggles against the clock to stop him from spreading the virus further.
Kids is being hammered for the same reason Trainspotting was - its refusal to take a crude, simplistic (read conservative) moral stance on its subject matter, here underage sex, as compared to drug abuse in Danny Boyle’s film. It’s worrying that any film that makes it to the big screen confronting its audience with topical issues while offering no comfortable solutions gets the critical once over by the establishment. (in the other hand, controversy is powerful publicity, and it’s free. (Miles Fielder) Kids (18/ (Larry Clark, US, 1995) Leo Fitzpatrick, Justin Pierce, Chloe Sevign y. 93 mins. From Fri 17. Glasgow: MGM Film Centre. Edinburgh: Filmhouse, UCI.
DDIIRTRDDM DRAMA PRIMAL FEAR
l'ndcrlinmg the perennial appeal ol~ the counroom drama and the star power ol‘ Richard (were. this pi'cpostci'ous thriller packed them in at the ['8 box ol‘lice. a country where the line between due legal process and entertainment is becoming increasingly blurred.
('lerc is well cast as arrogant. media- l'ricntlly delcnce attorney \laitin \"ail. who out of sheer vanity takes on the case ol Aaron (lidward Norton). a bewildered teenage runaway accused ol‘ murdering his saviour and benefactor. the .'\rchbishop ol'(‘hicago. Since the (le‘lt‘lltllllll was arrested lleeing from the scene of the crime. in a distracted state and wearing blood-stained clothes. it looks to everyone else like an open and shut case. But. like all lawyers. \‘ail has an ethical bypass. so the guilt or innocence of his client is irrelevant; his job is to defend the boy without caring whether a cold-blooded killer walks l'ree.
Although this raises some crucial
moral questions. hinting at a deeper social agenda. the film quickly gets side-tracked into llollywood-ish dross about. for ex; relationship between prosecuting attorney Janet \'enable (Laura Linney)
and \'ail. her
Also. we are asked to accept that Vail. no longer driven by cynicism and a desire for media limelight. would risk his entire career for a nobody with whom he has formed a hitherto unthinkable emotional bond.
Somewhere plots. contrived romantic rivalry and dumb cliches is an intelligent. relevant thriller trying to get out; but despite the actors‘ best e dramatic tension and l'udges all the crucial issues. The film distributors have asked that critics don‘t reveal the film's ‘surprise' ending. btit if you can‘t see it coming from a mile off. the chances are you’re one of those moral myopics who believes that ().J. Simpson is innocent. (Nigel Floyd) I’rimu/ l’cui' ( IX) ((ii‘tggm'v Huh/it. (78'. /‘)96) Ric/um! (;(’l'(’. Laura [in/Icy. .lolm AIM/HUM)”. /.)’() iiiiiis. l-‘mm Fri 24. (icncm/ i'(’/(’(i.\‘('.
unple. the combative
es-lover and mentor.
amid the irrelevant sub-
l‘t'otts. the film lacks
Primal Fear: ‘preposterous thriller’
Rough Magic: ‘a bit too fanciful for most tastes’
l i l ‘i "i
Clare Peploe’s magic realism concoction may prove to be a bit too fanciful for most tastes. Based on the James Hadley-Chase pulp fiction Miss Shumway Waves A Wand, it’s a Iow-
' budget hotchpotch of film genres set
largely (appropriately enough) in South America in the 19505.
The film starts in Los Angeles, however, where tough, silky coniurer’s assistant Myra (Bridget Fonda) flees from her fiance, soulless uranium tycoon Wyatt (D.W. Moffat), when he rasth shoots her magician. Wyatt has Myra followed to Mexico by Nagasaki- shocked reporter Alex Ross (Russell Crowe), who promptly falls under her spell. The two of them run off together with quacky Doc Ansell (Jim Broadbent) in search of a secret
Mayan elixir. They upset some spiteful Mexicans en route and, as Wyatt closes in on them, Alex unwiser conceals his initial motives from Myra.
Described by Peploe as a ‘magi- comedy’, it’s a mix of love story, road movie, adventure film and film noir. It certainly has a sense of fun, but some of the handling looks dilettante and the cast play it very straight where Bogey and Bacall might have seemed a bit more ironic. Fonda turns in another credible central performance, the locations are exotic, and there are some funny moments after the magic suddenly kicks in about half way through; but, all said, the material doesn’t quite levitate. (Gio MacDonald)
Rough Magic ( 12) (Clare Peploe, US/France, 1995) Bridget Fonda, Russell Crowe, Jim Broadbent. 104 mins. From Fri 17. Edinburgh: Cameo.
SECRETS AND lIES
Secrets A Lies: ‘balanced, approachable and movlng’
After the torrent of bleak. bitter cynicism in Mikcil. Mike Leigh returns to the more familiar ground of' working-class domesticity in his latest - and quite possibly best — movie. For while .‘y'tiket/ featured a blistering performance by David Thewlis that overwhelmed the rest ol‘ the film. .S't'i'n’ls' um/ Hex is a much more balanced. more approachable and. ultimately. more moving piece of work.
Portrait photographer Maurice (Timothy Spall) works all hours to provide his snobby wile Monica (Phyllis Logan) with all the crassly co-ordinated trappings of a middle— class home. Meanwhile. in the otllsidc-lavvy house where he grew tip. .‘vlaurice's sister (‘y nthia (Brenda Blethyn) mopes around with her daughter Roxanne ((‘laire Rushbrook). a roadsweeper with ‘a lace like a slapped arse'. This uneasy status quo is threatened when young black optician llortense (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) begins the search for her while working class mother. who costs for the moment only as the name ‘(‘ynthia l’urley' on her birth certificate.
l.eigh seems to reckon that. whatever a family's secrets and lies. roots and truths will out. The directors ol‘ten exaggerated caricatures are here rc placed by complex. real people -r sometimes irritating; ultimately sympathetic. The acting shows brilliance on every level. from Spall and .lean- Baptiste‘s quret reserve to Blcthyn‘s show-stopping voyage of emotional discovery. liasily one of the most moving l'ilms ol‘ the year so far. (Alan Morrison St‘i I't'IV .'l/I(/ I.I('\’ l /.‘-I hill/w lite/i, ('lx'/I"I'tt/it't'. I‘M/ii [firm/(i ll/t'I/iv/i. 'li'liinI/iv Spit/l. I’liv/lis [HUN/l. l4] nri/rr. I’M/ii Sun 2/): (illHL‘Ull' I’ll/it T/It'illl't'.
The List l7-30 May l996 31