FILM new releases

Absolute Power

(15) 121 mins *‘kt

The opening frames of Clint Eastwood's latest directorial outing give away its aspirations towards fine art. Cheesy, to be sure, but fine art none the less. But then the camera pans across the gallery to a pair of hands, and you know you have come to the right screen. They can only be Clint's. You'd recognise them anywhere, like almost any part of his body - which later makes for one of the most unintentionally funny lines in any movie this year, when an otherwise perceptive disguise designer and passport forger complements Eastwood on a face which would blend in, unnoticed, anywhere.

Besides taking itself far too seriously, Absolute Power contains a few too many of these suspensions of disbelief and oversights in the plotting department. However, audiences will forgive Eastwood, if only for the film's tight and gripping opening twenty minutes of edge-of- the-seat cinema. Here is the proof, if any is needed, that the man can both act and direct.

Eastwood plays older-aged art thief Luther Whitney, who witnesses a rather compromising

bonk-fest while burglarising a,

mansion one night. Gene Hackman, on top sleazy form, is the bonker

who spends the rest of the movie trying to implicate Whitney with the aid of Scott Glenn, Judy Davis and Dennis Haysbert. Of course, our Clint could never have done what Hackman would have you believe - he's too long in the tooth to be on any side but the angels nowadays - although he does have trouble convincing his estranged daughter (Laura Linney) and cop Ed Harris.

To reveal much more of the plot would be to spoil those spellbinding initial moments which, along with

Crafty burglar: Clint Eastwood stars in and directs Absolute Power

(Thom Dibdin)

the performances from Glenn and Davis, really are the finest parts of the movie. Suffice it to say that all the usual Eastwood trademarks are present and correct: fetishistic use of big guns, use of female characters bordering on the misogynistic, and skewed moral standards. Which, for those who love the man's work, makes the banal ending all the more of a let down.

I General release from Fri 30 May.

Axe to grind: Alison Elliott in The Spitfire Grill

The Spitfire Grill

(12)116 mins ***

In a world of mega-buck blockbusters and superficial dramas, The Spitfire Grill is an oddity which, while perfectly watchable and at times highly thought-provoking, is likely to divide critical opinion and leave the mass audience cold. Nevertheless, director Lee David Zlotoff’s debut film unfolds

28 THEUST 30 May—12 Jun 1997

with deceptive languor until you are absorbed in its every detail.

It begins with the release from prison of Percy (Alison Elliott), a young woman with a troubled past looking to make a fresh start. She hopes to do just that in the small Appalachian community of Gilead, and takes a room at the local diner, The Spitfire Grill, in return for a job as a waitress, where she comes under the watchful

eye of the fearsome Hannah (Ellen Burstyn). But smalltown folk the world over are not used to change and mistrust strangers. Only when Hannah suffers an accrdent does the frosty reception thaw, as Percy is forced to take over The Spitfire Grill aided by the mousy Shelby (Marcia Gay Harden).

Even then she has to contend With the suspicion of Shelby’s husband (Will Patton), but in time Percy becomes more accepted, as her Winning personality and desire to please subtly changes her relationship With Hannah and Shelby. Her past casts a long shadow, however, and as its darkness threatens to engulf her once again, Percy finds that she is not the only Gilead resident with something to hide.

It’s not far from being like some soapy melodrama, but only in the best sense with characters who are real and convincing. In the same way, the drama comes about because of the foibles, flaws and virtues of this mixed bunch, which gives The Spitfire Grill the credible yet slightly unsatisfactory air of real life. Despite the odd flaw in pacing, it's a movie that Will move you if you let it, thanks to a combination of Zlotoff's thoughtful writing and a clutch of excellent performances from three fine leading ladies. (Anwar Brett) I Glasgow: Showcase from Fri 30 May.

Film Soundtracks

Something old (bits of Smetana), something new (Thomas Newman’s score), something borrowed (a soulful version of 'Battle Hymn Of The Republic’),.something blue (track titles like 'Porn Again'). The soundtrack album for The People vs Larry Flynt (Premier, 4: *) is an inconsistent jumble sale of sounds that slaps K.C. And The Sunshine Band’s 'I'm Your Boogie Man' beside Dvorak's Stabat Mater, slipping in Newton's unremarkable mood music along the way. The film is about freedom of speech, but this disc is more like a schizophrenic's rambling.

The use of the Dvorak in Larry Flynt is a recent example of how the epic quality of a scene can be increased by powerful choral music. Cinema Choral Classics (Silva Screen, 4: t it air) includes newly recorded versions (by the Crouch End Festival Chorus and City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra) of some of the big screen's most dramatic vocal backdrops. Orff’s Carmina Burana (here credited to Excalibur) is a cliched but necessary opener; elsewhere, feel the hairs rise on the back of your neck to Jerry Goldsmith's suite from The Omen and thrill to the scale of the writing by film composers Maurice Jarre (Jesus Of Nazareth), Ennio Morricone (The Mission) and Miklos Rozsa (King Of Kings). And if this sounds like it’s becoming a bit heavy, there’s also the melodic delicacy of The Scarlet Letter's choral arrangement of Barber’s Adagio For Strings and Patrick Doyle’s beautiful ’Non Nobis Domine’ from Henry V.

In the same way as it’s impossible to dislike the film, the soundtrack for Big Night (Cinerama, * at i) leaves listeners With a smile on their faces. The period le0 sounds of Louis Prima make excellent side plates for an essentially Italian main course of Old and New World music, where the folk song tradition meets SOs dancehall favourites. Sometimes shamelessly romantic, sometimes irresistibly lively, it only occasionally sounds as if you've strayed into a trattoria for tourists.

A quick final mention for Nowhere (Mercury, it t ‘k t), the latest, as-yet- unreleased film by Gregg Araki remixes of tracks by The Chemical Brothers, Ruby, Marilyn Manson and Massive Attack, plus new songs by Radiohead, Elastica and Lush, give the disc the cool, on-the-edge intensity typical of this director’s work.

(Alan Morrison)

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Musical mish-mash: The People vs Larry Flynt