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Powder: ‘uninspired and sentimental’



Spiritually uplifting iilms - or rather, iilms that are intended to be spiritually uplifting - are coming to our cinemas thick and last these days. Theme-wise, Powder bears similarities to John Travolta’s Phenomenon, with a superachiever tor a central character and a conviction about where the human race is heading as its guiding principle.

An albino boy, discovered in a cellar by local sheriii Lance ilenriksen and kindly teacher Mary Steenburgen, has an III that goes right oti the scale. We soon iind that he is also electrically charged and able to perionn incredible teats with spoons, dying deer and bolts oi lightening. What is most remarkable and ‘upliiting’ is the tact that the boy, named Powder, uses all his power tor the good oi humanity. The idea is iloated that he is actually a more highly evolved human, a sneak

preview oi what we may become in the I



What is most likely to engage an audience’s attention in an otherwise wooden and sell-indulgent movie are the layers and layers oi thick white paint that make Powder (Sean Patrick Flanery) into an albino. it is incredible to stare inside his ears during a close- up and notice that, yes, they got the stuii in there too.

By iar the best thing about the iilm is left Coldblum, who plays an idiosyncratic science teacher and graits his own brand oi slightly disturbing humour to the role. But apart from him, and one touching moment when super-Powder enables a dying woman to communicate with her husband, the iilm is an uninspired and sentimental plod all the way to the credits. (llannah Fries)

Powder (12) (Victor Salve, US, 1995) Sean Patrick Flanery, Mary Steenburgen, Jet! Coldblum. 112 mlns. From Fri 14 Feb. General release.

Like the naturalistic work of Cassavettes. Altman and. more


A cameo appearance by Steve Buscemi shines in any movie (think Barton Fink. The Hiulsucker Proxy. Pulp Fiction. Desperado. Things To Do In Denver When You 're Dead. Kansas City). The actor's starring roles are the hallmark of many films (Ix’eservoir Dogs. In The Soap. Living In Oblivion. Fargo). That Buscemi directs himself in the semi- autobiographical Trees Lounge ought to be enough to ensure the film‘s cult status.

Trees Lounge‘s Long Island suburbia setting is located somewhere between Raymond Carver country and Charles Bukowski territory. Here the cast of

recently. Wayne Wang and Paul Auster's Smoke. Trees Lounge is full of magical low key moments: Buscemi‘s botched attempt to pick up a woman in the bar that gives the film its title with a pathetic patty trick. his naff impersonation of Marlon Brando. being chatted up by teenager Chloe Sevigny in his ice cream van.

It‘s to Buscemi‘s credit that he‘s crafted a film that prioritises characterisation over plot and charms its audience with its warm yet unsentimental treatment of some deadbeat and. occasionally. despicable low-Iifers. Trees Lounge is the greatest. most phenomenal. small. unassuming film you‘re likely to see all year. (Miles

ordinary people become extraordinary Fielder) under Buscemi‘s hard but loving focus on seemineg arbitrarily selected passages in their lives.

The film's success lies in its details.

Trees Lounge (/5) (Steve Buscemi. US. I996) Steve Buscemi. Chloe Sevigny. Anthony LaPag/ia. 95mins. Front Fri [4. Feb Edinburgh: Cameo.

Plenty oi bottle: Steve Buscemi In Trees lounge

The Importance oi being Ernest: Chris O’Connell in In love And War


IN LOVE AND WAR it ever a iilm was killed by its casting, then this is it. Dickie Attenborough’s latest asks us to believe in Chris O’Donnell - the iresh-iaced Boy Wonder himseli - as the young Ernest Hemingway in a dramatlsatlon oi events irom the writer’s iormative years. Later to be distilled into print as It Farewell To Arms, Hemingway’s voluntary service as a lied Cross medical orderly on the Italian-Austrian iront in 1918 brought a passionate but ill-iated romance with an American nurse, Agnes Von llurowsky - a pivotal moment tor the great-author-to-be. Casting boo-boo number two is getting Sandra Bullock to play Von Ilurowsky. iler iace doesn’t lit the period, and she seems hopelessly lost when having to look like she’s In the grip oi some grand passion. O’Donnell, ontheotherhand, isthesameas usual. Maybe the iilm would work

better it he was playing plain .loe Schmo irom Idaho, but he’s not, and the scene where he dictates a letter to one oi his iallen comrades’ iamilies, just so we get a glimpse oi his budding literary giits, will make your iingernails curl with embarrassment.

Elsewhere, the screenplay takes ltseli so seriously there's little irony or sharp wit to spice up the dull pudding oi seliless heroism, while Attenborough’s vision oi the horrors oi war proves so blandly approximate, we’re not even shocked anymore. It’s a movie that might have been made at any time in the past 30 years, with no compelling reason why we should be seeing it now. After the conventional, but very moving Shadowlands, this Is a dull thud. (Trevor Johnston)

In love And War (15) (Richard Attenborough, US, 1996) Chris O’Donnell, Sandra Bullock, Emilio Bonucci. 115 mins. Frorn Fri 14. General release.


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Colour contrast: John Travolta in White Man's Burden

Imagine a world where the police force. the business executives and even employment officers are all black. while the underclass. the poor. the unemployed are all white. It’s not inconceivable. but when presented on screen it appears etttbat‘rassingly alien.

Starring John Travolta. Desmond Nakano‘s White Man 's Burden tells the story of Louis Pinnock. a family man who loses his job as a factory worker and attempts to confront his wealthy black employer. Thaddeus Thomas (Harry Belafonte). about wrongful dismissal. However. unable to even secure a meeting with his ex-boss. Pinnock is driven to abduct him. taking him to see the world of the poverty-stricken white ghetto.

Illustrated with satirical humour. the class and race reversals are so exaggerated that immediate discomfort is diffused. However. invading the consciousness more subtly. and therefore more unnervingly. are the reversals of the cultural world the colourful. patterned African fashions. the Moorish architecture. the Islamic designs. and the black- dominated media. Although recognisabl y standard in plot structure and characterisation. this film is certainly not standard in the way it addresses its racial subject matter. Disturbing. powerful. White Man Is Burden is a conscious- ness-raising film that should provoke strong reactions from all shades and layers of society. (Beth Williams)

White Man Is Burden (I 5) (Desmond Nakano, US, I996) John Travolta. Harry Belajonte. Kelly Lvnch. 96 mins. Front Fri 7. Limited general release.

The List 7-20 Feb I997 23