James And The Giant Peach: ‘true to the author’s surreal vision’



Alter the blockbuster success at Disney’s recent 2-D computer-

generated and cel animation tilms, it’s

a pleasure to applaud the quirkier

delights oi 3-D stop-motion animation

on display in llenry Selick’s new

' adaptation of Roald Dahl’s much-loved children’s book.

. Selick uses a live-action trame tor

' the story, which begins when lonely

: nine-year-old orphan James (Paul

l Terry) is sent to live in a bleak hill-top

house with his cruel aunts (a pair ot grotesques played by Joanna lumley

' and Miriam Margolyes). Escape comes

alter a barren tree in the garden magically produces a giant peach. The story up to here is deliberately stilted, taking place in a drab, highly stylised world, but it bursts into animated lite with lush, saturated colours when James climbs inside the giant peach where he encounters a

small band at insects - chic Miss Spider (voiced by Susan Sarandon), the swaggering Brooklyn tough Centipede (Richard Dreyluss), gentlemanly Grasshopper (Simon Gallow), maternal ladybug (Jane leeves) and gloomy Earthworm (David Thewlis).

As the peach and its crew sail to New York, Selick and his team produce some wonderfully inventive animation. The iourney’s highlights include an encounter with a terocious mechanical shark and a swashbuckling underwater swordtight with skeleton pirates a homage to stop-motion master Ray llarryhausen’s Jason And The Argonauts. Selick’s tilm does tweak Dahl’s story and characters a bit but - by turns scary and funny - it stays true to the author’s surreal and whimsical vision ol a lonely child overcoming adult cruelty and his innermost tears. (Jason Best)

James And The Giant Peach (U) (Ilenry Selick, US, 1996) Paul Terry, Susan Sarandon, Simon Gallow. 79mins. From Fri 2. General release.



Stumbling through a forest after his religious community has been wiped out in a Waco-style attack. Darkly Noon (Brendan Fraser) lands in front of a truck driven by Jude (Loren Dean). who lakes the distressed man to the isolated home of his friend Callie (Ashley Judd). Soon Darkly. who has had no contact with outside world. is completely beguiled by this beautiful woman who shows him kindness. However. when another forest dweller. the spiteful Roxy (Grace Zabriskie). tells him that Callie and her lover Clay (Viggo Mortensen) are brother and sister. Darkly‘s emotional confusion spills over into murderous rage.

Writer-director Philip Ridley (whose debut. The Reflecting Skin. was equally remarkable) draws on the potent sexual undercurrents and allegorical power of the fairytale. Regardless of the film's American setting. his story plays out in a dark and mystical forest ofgrimtm) European forebodings. while in a cottage in a clearing. a beautiful woman bewitches the hero.


As the child of Bible-bashing parents. Darkly suppresses his natural sexual attraction for Callie. living out his cult's fear of women's sexuality. This brand of fundamentalist misogyny. clothed as hypocritical purity. first causes him to feel shame. then builds to perversion and ultimately madness. Ridley‘s startling image of Darkly wrapped like a fetishistic Christ in barbed wire. mutilating himself on account of his sexual desires. is the gothic horror equivalent of a medieval monk‘s llagellation.

The film is a glorious fusion of distorted images and dislocated sounds. and an astonished audience is left overwhelmed by the flow of rich symbolism and colour coordination. The switch back and forth between realistic psychological character portraits and the jarring break-up of logical flow isn't a lilmmaking error. it‘s Ridley's way of boldly allowing his work to disturb us on a deeper : emotional level than by narrative alone. An utterly unique experience. (Alan

The Passion OfDark/y Nomi (I 8)

(Philip Rid/ey. UK/Germany. I995) Brendan Fraser; Ashley Judd. Viggu Morlensen. Edinburgh:

I 0/ mlns. Fri 26—Mmi 29. Film/muse.

The Passion Of Darkly lloon: ‘rlch symbolism’

Denise calls tip: ‘inventlve and tun, but the loke wears thin"


It’s the morning alter a party to which nobody turned up. As the phone keeps ringing and triends trawl out their excuses, you can’t help teeling sorry tor the rejected party girl. But then we learn the truth: this is the Telephone Age. Who needs to meet up when calling up will do? Who needs sex when masturbation and a mobile are just as ettective?

The six New Yorkers at the centre ot the tllm are high tllers living with tight deadlines and big pressures. Relationships are the that thing on their minds but the last thing they get round to. The phone tilts in as a vehicle tor matchmaking, consoling,


tailing in love. u

And that is Denise Calls Up: a comic satire about the loss of our human ability to communicate. The characters are tairly rounded - at least, they all demonstrate a basic need ior triends, tor love and tor tun - but they never meet up . . . and as the minutes go by, the telephone relationship joke wears thin. Worse, it rings talse. llobody in their right mind would substitute a physical relationship tor an electronically- transmitted one, regardless ot GT commercials. Denise calls Up is inventive and tun, but somewhere along the line it disappears up its own clever mouthpiece. (llannah Fries) Denise calls Up (15) (lied Saliven, US, 1994) Alanna Ubach, Tim Daly, Dana Wheeler. 81mins. From Fri 26. Glasgow: GFTZ Edinburgh: Ganeo.


Rainbow: ‘little humour and minimal drama'

A magical thing that brings light and colour into the hearts of many - but box office success will be as fickle and lleeting as the meteorological phenomenon that features so prominently in this charmless children's adventure.

The rainbow here is like a garish funfair ride that takes four annoyingly precocious kids from their New .lcrsey home to the American midwest as they ride its multicoloured arcs. When Mike and his friends Pete and Tissy learn that older brother Steven has pocketed some of the i'aitibow’s gold in the vain hope that pawning it for cash will make him attractive to girls. his moment of greed jeopardises the world's peace and safety.

()fcourse. the film is broadly aimed at the 7- l-l-year-old audience. but the characters are so perfunctory and lacking in warmth that even the most easy to please will be struggling to get involved. For parents. watching the earnest and moral story unfold is an almost painful process. as it plods along with little humour and minimal drama. Bob Hoskins directs the tepid affair and leads the adult cast. playing Mike's kindly magician grandfather. btit even he seems ill at ease and short of ideas.

Shot on a new high definition film stock. the better to capture the beauty of a rainbow's inside. the film looks like a colour-saturated home video and plays very much like an old Children's Film Foundation adventure. But with such fierce competition from Disney and the rest. Rainbow amounts to a patchy and insubstantial film. echoing its own story by having very little real colour. (Anwar Brett)

Rain/raw ( PG) ( 80/) Has/(ins. UK. I995) 80/) Has/(ins, Terry F inn. Jacob Tierney. 9/ minx. F mm Fri 26. General

rel ease.

The List 26 Jul-8 Aug l996 27