new releases

The English Patient (15) 162 mins *hhk

Nominated for a stunning twelve Oscars, The English Patient is special, as much for what you take away with you when you leave the cinema, as for what you experience while actually watching it. In a sense, the film is understated - the characters and their relationships unfold slowly, almost shyly, in a way that is very English. And yet those characters and relationships are so exquisitely drawn and realised that they burn into the memory and linger there long after the final credits.

Director Anthony Minghella took Michael Ondaatje‘s 'unfilmable' Booker Prize-winning novel as his inspiration, but greatly reorganised its structure to concentrate on a relationship that is not central to the book. Minghella made his name with the tear-jerking Truly, Madly, Deeply in 1991, and a similarly romantic impulse causes him to put a doomed love affair at the heart of his latest film.

Ralph Fiennes is the elemental loner Count Laszlo de Almasy, who falls for Katharine Clifton (Kristen Scott Thomas) when she arrives in the Sahara desert with her husband, Geoffrey (Colin Firth). By the time the two actually commit adultery,

they - and we - have been aching for it for ages, and the consummation is passionate and poignant. Poignant because Almasy is remembering the whole story from his deathbed in Italy where he is succumbing to horrific war wounds several years later. Passionate because Fiennes and Scott Thomas are exceptionally convincing as two people who profoundly belong together.

The desert setting for the affair is magical, and the Italian scenes, though inevitably more mundane, are also

Surrendering to passion: Ralph Fiennes and Kristin Scott Thomas in The English Patient

deeply moving thanks to performances from Juliette Binoche, as a war-torn nurse, and Willem Dafoe, as the 'thief' who seeks revenge on Almasy. Naveen Andrews as Binoche's Sikh lover is wooden by comparison, but to complain about him would be churlish when it is the very brilliance of the lead performances that makes others appear to trail in their wake. (Hannah Fries)

I General release from Fri 74 Mar.

strong supporting

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Dating agency: Tom Cruise and Renee Zellweger get romantic in Jerry Maguire

Jerry Maguire (15) 138 mins ****

Tom Cruise has just entered the record books, notching up his fifth successive film to top the $100 million mark at the box office. There are plenty of people out there eager to bask in the gleam of that perfect smile and radiant charm - two characteristics shared by fast-talking sports agent Jerry Maguire,

24 TIIEUST 7—20 Mar 1997

Cruise's latest screen role.

The smooth manipulator persona is one that seems to fit the actor like a glove but this isn’t a lazy return to the effortless ease of Cocktail. Far from it: Jerry Maguire marks Cruise's best performance, showing that the actor has matured in range and credibility since the days of Born On The Fourth Of July, when he might have been guilty of trying a little too hard.

Jerry IS one of the top dogs at Sports Management International. Suffering a moment of disillusionment, however, he writes a Mission Statement alleging that the business has become greedy and lost its human touch. Commendable sentiments but, as it turns out, famous last words, because Jerry gets fired after distributing his masterwork among his colleagues. With clients shifting their allegiances like the proverbial rats abandoning the sinking ship, Jerry is left with only one man temperamental American footballer Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding Jr) on his books. At least he’s also got loyal secretary and single mum Dorothy Boyd (Renee Zellweger) to give him a bit of suppOrt and growing affection.

What writer-director Cameron Crowe has to say about the world of the sports agent, where professional insmcerity is a shallow substitute for intimacy, is widely true of America in the 90s and all Americanised cultures Wthh look west for their value systems. This gives some depth and emotional maturity to the film’s feelgood factor, as does the well written role of Dorothy and wonderful playing by Gooding and Regina King (as Ron's wife Marcee). (AM)

I General release from Fri 7 Mar.

Normal Life (18) 102 mins *ir‘k

Loosely based on a true story, John McNaughton's riveting, low-key crime movie casts ex-Bever/y Hills 90210 heartthrob Luke Perry and Heat star Ashley Judd as an ex-cop and a Chicago factory worker locked into an intense but doomed relationship.

Finding it hard to fit in with the ’them

and us’ ethos of the Chicago police department, Chris Anderson (Perry) quits the only job he ever wanted. To finance his dream of a suburban house, a beautiful wife and a normal life, Chris takes up bank robbery, a transition made easier by his cool head and inside knowledge. Even so, the already unstable Pam (Judd) becomes increasingly erratic, her explosions of violent rage and bouts of self- lacerating depression alleviated only by childisth indulgent shopping sprees and drunken binges. In the US, following a lukewarm reception at the Sundance Film Festival, this character-driven study of blue collar aspiration and alienation was denied a theatrical release by its own production company, Spelling Entertainment. Yet this fourth film from Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer director McNaughton manifests the same evocative sense of place, the same grasp of marginal lifestyles, and the same understanding of dysfunctional relationships.

His direction also draws fine performances from both actors: Perry's uptight, oddly conventional ex-cop is effectively set off against Judd’s convincingly bright but painfully vulnerable Pam. The one dodgy note is the feeble plot coincidence by which Pam learns of Chris’s criminal activities, before begging him to take her with him on his next job a request he can’t refuse, but one which seals their fate forever. (Nigel Floyd)

I Glasgow Showcase from Fri 14 Mar.

Crime doesn't pay: Ashley Judd and Luke Perry in Normal life

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