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Witch's brew: Sigourney Weaver and Monica Keena in Snow White
Snow White: A Tale Of
Terror (15) 100 mins ***
Although the story of Snow White is a familiar one, it is perhaps closer to the contemporary bone than one realises, with its emphasis upon the dysfunctional family and the woman obsessed with self-image.
Starring Sigourney Weaver, this unanimated version of the fairytale has a magical gothic setting within Germany's enchanted Black Forest. Entering the Hoffman household as the new wife of Frederick (Sam Neill), the attractive, talented and mirror- possessing Claudia (Weaver) develops an irrational inferiority complex to porcelein-skinned Lilli (Monica Keena), the beloved daughter of the Baron. Enwous of Lilli’s youth and natural charm, Claudia callously plots to
destroy her, driving the girl to flee into the feared forest, where she later pursues her, disguised as an apple- wielding crone.
Initially developing with particular emphasis upon the plight of Claudia, as she competes with her husband's daughter for attention, Snow White brings empathy to the plight of the resented stepmother. Weaver’s performance dominates the screen and is so strong and realistic that one is surprised not to feel hatred for the traditional baddy. Unfortunately, however, the supporting roles remain flat and artificial, so that when Claudia’s rage transforms her into a bitter neurotic with magical powers, the story plummets into a quagmire of hyperbolic fantasy with no foothold in the human realism with which it began. (Beth Williams)
I General release from Fri 37 Oct.
Dressed for the occasion: Gabriel Byrne and Julia Ormond in Smilla's Feeling For
Smilla's Feeling For Snow (15) 120 mins it **
Half-Inuit Smilla (Julia Ormond) spent the first six years of her life in Greenland, where she developed a ’sense of snow' allowing her to note the finest details of the stuff, Years later, when she arrives at her apartment building in Copenhagen to discover the young son of a neighbour lying dead outside, it's this icy sixth sense which makes her suspioous of the single set of children's footprints on the roof. Convinced there was no accident, Smilla gradually unravels an Arctic conspiracy of iceberg-sized proportions, although her life of numbers and science is thrown into disarray.
In Peter Hoeg’s source novel, Smilla is. an intriguing character. Although she passed her primitive childhood in ar igloo, she has more glamorobs fur outfits than Imelda Marcos had pairs of shoes. The film, however, does little to explore these character traits — the outfits, for example, just seem to be a convenient way to make Ormond look beautiful in extreme conditions.
Stark blue photography captures the Arctic landscape so effectively it makes you shiver, but doesn't stop the film from being any more than a bland thriller. Even as the honey-like tones of neighbour Gabriel Byrne melt Ormond’s frozen interior, Smilla’s Feeling For Snow doesn’t leave you flushed with emotion or excitement, but just a bit chilly. (Sophy Bristow)
I Selected release from Fri 37 Oct.
new releases FILM
House Of America (15) 96 mins ***
Though set in the wounded heartland of South Wales, Marc Evans's directorial debut dreams of America. Brother and sister Sid and Gwennie are small town fantasists with widescreen visions. Their American romance is fuelled by Jack Kerouac, bourbon and the notion that their errant father is waiting for them across the Atlantic. But as Sid (Steven Mackintosh) vainly wrestles his Harley down the muddy ruts of a country lane, it’s obvious that Wales is further off the road than anything Kerouac could imagine.
As the movie progresses, Sid and Gwennie retreat further and further into an increasingly incestuous fantasy, their mother (Sian Phillips) drifts off into dementia and it's left to younger brother Boyo (Matthew Rhys) to be the voice of reason — a role he’s not best equipped for.
Exploring the cultural and social debt we owe to America — a US company owns the local open-cast mine - Evans's approach avoids the obvious kitchen sink realism and in its place finds a sour poetry, powered by potent performances, particularly Rhys, and a modish soundtrack (The Manic Street Preachers, John Cale, Tom Jones).
But the strength of Evans's eye and ear fails to overcome the claustrophobia of the script, adapted by writer Edward Thomas from his own play. As the family tragedy remorselessly unwinds, the viewer feels as trapped as the characters. (Teddy Jamieson)
I Glasgow Grosvenor from Fri 24 Oct. Edinburgh Filmhouse from Fri 27 Nov.
Steven Mackintosh and Lisa Palfrey in House Of America
The Cloud-Capped Star
(15)126 mins *‘k‘k‘k
The 50th anniversary celebrations of India’s independence were highlighted, back in August, by a wide-ranging season of Indian cinema at London’s National Film Theatre. The Cloud-Capped Star, directed by Bengali auteur Ritwik Ghatak, was its flagship restoration, and a film that demonstrates how limited the West's view of Indian cinema really is.
Neither an all—singing, all-dancing Bollywood extravaganza, nor the precisely delineated lyricism of Satyajit Ray, Ghatak's evocation of a sorely tried woman's struggle to retain hope in an unjust world is in fact, a highly mannered, forcefully emotional melodrama. Set in Calcutta in the wake of Partition — which Ghatak regarded as disastrous since it split Bengal in two — it tracks the nobly unhappy existence of Nita (Supriya Choudhury), a student forced to become the family breadwinner, who then herself becomes a burden when she contracts TB.
Ghatak's purpose isn't simply to describe the daily grind of post-war India. There’s also the larger picture — symbolised by a noisy train arrival in the opening shots - of the effects of modernity on a society already contending with its own primitiveness. Much is made of the musical soundtrack, which underscores the ebb and flow of Nita's harried progress. All in all, an education in more ways than one. (Andrew Pulver)
I Glasgow Film Theatre, Sun 26—Tue 28 Oct.
ALSO OPENING An American Werewolf In Paris
Are some movies best left alone? John Landis's 1981 movie An American Werewolf In London was one of the director's best, an always entertaining mix of scares, black comedy and state-of-the- art make-up effects. Sixteen years later, British director Anthony Waller tries his hand at a sequel, in which three young Americans ’doing' Europe descend on the French capital and meet Serafine (Julie Delpy), beautiful in human form but also a natural born werewolf.
Not one print of the film was available in the UK to show to journalists before The List went to press, but one hopes that, if anyone can match Landis's tone, it’s writer-director Waller, whose debut, Mute Witness, had the same, perfect, dark- edged balance of horror and comedy. And, with modern digital technology, those transformation scenes should be even more eye-popping. (Alan Morrison)
I General release from Fri 37 Oct.
Julia Bowen and Tom Everett Scott in An American Werewolf In Paris
23 Oct—6 Nov 1997 THE LIST 25