The Game (15) 128 mins *t‘k
David Fincher's eagerly awaited follow-up to Seven is a psychological thriller with more twists than a helter-skelter. Played by Michael Douglas, its hero is San Francisco investment banker Nicholas Van Orton, a ruthless businessman accustomed to being in control of every aspect of his life. He's a spiritual cousin of those characters in the yuppie-in-peril movies of the 805 - films like Something Wild - in which well- heeled, complacent men were put through a psychological wringer by fate and an enigmatic femme fatale.
Van Orton is older and richer, but his trial is no less chastening. Divorced and childless, he leads a pampered but joyless existence. His jaded, pointless life is shaken up, however, by the arrival of his wastrel younger brother, Conrad (Sean Penn), who presents him with a gift certificate for Consumer Recreation Services, a shadowy company that tailors personalised life games for its clients. Suspicious but intrigued, Van Orton checks out the CRS offices, where he is put through a battery of psychometric tests designed to reveal his psychological profile.
As for ‘the game’ itself, all he learns is that there are no rules. His game starts with a series of minor irritations, but when he obeys a note urging him to follow a waitress (played by Deborah Kara Unger from Crash), he finds himself being sucked deeper and deeper into a vortex of suspicion and fear as, one by one, every
certainty in his life is stripped away.
The Game is an intriguing Chinese puzzle of a movie that teases and taunts the viewer almost as much as its hapless hero. Every time we - and Van Orton - think we
Clowning around: Michael Douglas in The Game
are getting close to the truth, another trap springs into
place. There are flashes of mordant humour and moments of palm-dampening excitement, but given that Fincher is at the helm, the film is nowhere near as dark as one would expect.
The Game is never less than engaging, but ultimately the stakes it is playing for — the soul of Douglas's
’bloated millionaire fat cat’ - are just not high enough
to do more than pique our interest as we, like him, are taken for a dizzying ride. (Jason Best) I General release from Fri 70 Oct.
Temptress Moon (15) 130 mins Hr Opium, incest and raging passions are the highlights of Temptress Moon, a complex love story mirroring the fate of a changing China during the 205. Exposing the corrupt worms of change burrowing through the serenity of a luxurious ancestral home, the film — from Farewell My Concubine director Chen Kaige — tells the tale of a traditional Chinese family.
Unable to stomach the overthrow of the old dynastic regime, the Pang clan have plummeted into the escapism of
China rose: Gong Li in Temptress Moon
opium addiction. Zhengda (Zhou Yemang), heir to the Pang ancestral seat, has invited his wife's brother, Zhongliang (Leslie Cheung), to reside in their beautiful, lantern-lit palace. However, finding himself slave to the drugged demands of the family, Zhongliang is overcome by anger and dismay. The final straw comes when he starts receiving sexual overtures from Xiuyi (He Saifei), his own sister. Shocked and appalled, he flees, leaving Zhengda mysteriously paralysed and brain-dead, unable to take on the role of master.
Consequently, when old master Pang dies years later, the elders reluctantly allow Zhengda’s beautiful sister Ruyi (Chinese superstar Gong Li) to take control of the estate with the aid of a distant male relative, Duanwu (Kevin Lin), who is madly in love with her. All is relatively fine until Zhongliang, who has spent the past few years as a gigolo in Shanghai, returns to the household. Also attracted to Ruyi, Zhongliang attempts to seduce her, triggering a dangerous whirlpool of jealous rage in both the lovestruck Duanwu and the sexually frustrated Xiuyi.
Radiating the visual luxury of Farewell My Concubine, but without the same clarity, Temptress Moon attempts to tackle a mountain of issues — from male chauvmism to Chinese hierarchy and sexual politics. However, in illustrating the chaos of a changing society, Kaige has created a chaotic film. Although sumptuously shot and rich in period detail and interest, this emotional storm of political and personal passion is perhaps too complex for those unfamiliar with Chinese history.
(Beth Williams) I Glasgow Film Theatre and Edinburgh Fi/mhouse from Fri 70 Oct.
new releases FILM
Nil By Mouth (18) 139 mins *****
In the pastvyou could be forgiven for not being able to place Ray Winstone. You’d recognise the face, sure, but perhaps not where from. One viewing of Nil By Mouth will put you right.
There’s a moment . . . no, there are several moments in Gary Oldman’s directorial debut where Winstone’s face will burn itself into your brain. The scene where he gives his brother-in- law’s nose a ’lovebite' will do for a start. Or perhaps one of his leery, beery storytelling sequences that punctuate the film. Best bet, though, is the moment when this bull of a man - naked but for a pair of boxer shorts - starts dancing on his wife’s head.
An account of alcoholism and marital abuse, Ni/ By Mouth stalks smoky East End pubs, smog-ridden council estates and cheap-rate lives with an itchy amphetamine energy — plot via Mike Leigh, style Luc. Besson. On this showing, Oldman can match either. This is simply one of the best British movies of the 905 — shocking, funny, heartfelt and honest.
The movie sucks you in as you warm to the crude, laddish vigour of Ray (Winstone) and his best mate, before Oldman provides the most shocking of wake-up calls. it then conjures up the cycle of abuse economically yet powerfully as Ray recounts his own horrific childhood while failing to make the connection with his own violent actions.
In a flawless ensemble cast, Kathy Burke (whose performance won her the Best Actress award at Cannes) is herOic as the put-upon wife. When, in a life-embracing gesture, she dances round the living-room with Edna Dore, her face the colour and consistency of week-old liver, you can feel your heart swell in sympathy.
Bleak but brilliant, Nil By Mouth suggests that we wouldn’t be losing out if Hollywood's favourite English psycho gave up the day-job and started directing full-time. (Teddy Jamieson)
I Selected release from Fri 70 Oct.
Getting the needle: Charlie Creed-Miles
in Nil By Mouth STAR RATINGS * a it ‘k 4: Unmissable * x it it Very 00d it * t Wort a shot i t Below average, it You’ve been warned
lO Oct—23 Oct 1997 THELIST25