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The Man In The Iron

Mask (12) 132 mins lie

’You dead yet?’ sneers a greasy jailer as he steps up to the dankest dungeon in the Bastille in the opening shot of The Man In The Iron Mask. Are we about to see a BIackadder-style romp through history? A pair of anguished eyes encased in an iron mask then appear at a grille in the cell door. With them comes the realisation that the biggest laughs in Randall Wallace's adaptation of Alexandre Dumas's rollicking period adventure are going to be strictly unintentional.

It’s 1660 and France is on the verge of turmoil. The country’s dissolute young king, Louis XIV (Leonardo DiCaprio), wallows in luxury while the citizens of Paris starve. Sadly, the country's erstwhile saviours, the celebrated Three Musketeers, are past their prime. Holier-than-thou Aramis (Jeremy Irons) is now a Jesuit priest, champion roisterer Porthos (Gerard Depardieu) is a shadow of his former self, while Athos (John Malkovich) frets for the safety of his son, whose fiancee has caught the king’s eye.

But Aramis has a plan to rescue a mysterious masked prisoner languishing in the Bastille and thereby confound the cruel and arrogant king. The trio reunite, but their former companion, D'Artagnan (Gabriel Byrne), now the captain of the Royal Guard, remains

true to his monarch.

'I expected action. There was no fighting, no killing,’ complains Porthos at one point and the audience cannot help but share his disappointment. For a supposedly swashbuckling adventure, The Man In The Iron Mask is decidedly short on thrills and spills. Debutant director Randall Wallace, screenwriter of the wildly overpraised Braveheart, may have a black belt in karate (so the film's publicity boasts), but he can’t direct a fight scene

Three's a crowd: Yvan Attal, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Charles Berling in Love, Etc

Love, Etc (15) 105 mins The problem wrth lifelong friendships is that, although there is ioy to he had in sharing a great deal in common, there is also the irripending risk of one day sharing the same taste in love Starring accomplished French actress Charlotte Gainsbourg as this object of best buddy attention, Marion VernOiiz's Love, Etc is the tale of two pals, very different in character but very alike in inclination After years of seasoned friendship, the solid bond between flirtatious Pierre (Charles 1.

to save his life.


Metal head: who is The Man In The Iron Mask?

Nor does he have any grip on his actors. Indeed, the performances vary so wildly in tone - from the oafish buffoonery of Depardieu's leering Porthos to the constipated dignity of Byrne’s noble D'Artagnan - that

the cast at times appear to be acting in different films.

(Jason Best)

Berling) and steadfast Ben0it (Yvan Attal) is suddenly dented and threatened by Benoit's introduction of a third party After meeting Marie (Gainsbourg‘i through a small ad, Benoit falls head over heels in love and rs soon married to her As a result, the once linear nature of his relationship with Pierre is Violently nudged into the triangular category, much to his mate's surprise However, Pierre is not flabbergasted for long As Benoit's belle is gradually branded into the shifting dynamics of their long-established alliance, Pierre

Richard Lester‘s 1974 version of The Three Musketeers (ignore the lacklustre sequels) managed to send-up and celebrate the swashbuckling genre at the same time. Wallace plays it straight. He appears to take his characters’ chivalric notions of honour and glory absolutely seriously, but the results are risible.

General release from Fri 20 Mar.

starts to accept her presence wrth more than the correct dose of friendly affection.

Directed With a light touch, this classic love triangle scenario based on a book by English novelist Julian Barnes is portrayed With a highly sensitive eye. As the three main characters are introduced and proceed to hang around together dining, dating and day-tripping - their secret personal thoughts are revealed through a variety of clever directorial tricks. While an insightful camera shifts tenderly from Pierre to Benoit to Marie, picking up on their telling body language, the use of single person narrative, in addition to the standard dialogue, opens a Window to the internal worlds of all three characters

Stylish and subtle in tone, Love, Etc is a well presented, thought-provoking tale, memorable for its strong performances, particularly from Gainsbourg, who combines shyness With a wholly believable and contagious attractiveness.

(Beth Williams)

a Glasgow Film Theatre from Fri 27 Mar Edinburgh Fi/mhouse from Fri 77 Apr.

The River (18) 115 mins sink **

Though neither a tribute to the 1980 Springsteen album nor a remake of the Mel Gibson/Sissy Spacek movie, The River does share wrth both a sense of hardship, battling against the odds and general downbeat miserable pessimism. Don't go to this if you are feeling even the slightest bit down in any way For the rest, a raw cinematic gem awaits.

Tsar Ming-liang's very long and steadily paced film sees a Taipei family rent asunder by everyday humdrumrnery and their total inability to communicate To compensate for their stale lives, the mother has an affair wrth a bloke whose sideline is pirating porn Videos; the father gets his kicks from regular trips to gay saunas, and the son, Xiao-kang (Lee Kang— sheng), gets a Job on a film set as a corpse floating on the heavrly polluted Tanshui River

The next day Xiao-kang is struck down by an acute pain in the neck and shoulders which refuses to be dulled by any manner of treatments, from aCupuncture to spiritual exor‘cisrii, until madness threatens to consume him. Meanwhile, the family home is under threat by a leak from the unoccupied flat above and their lives teeter on the brink before cavrng in in more ways than one.

The River rs never a particularly comfortable or easy filiii-v.'atcliinc_i experience, but it is one which more than warrants patience and perseverance wrth its lush cineniatography, a heavy sense of dread and the image of endless Suffering, represented by Lee Kang- sheng's twrstrng neck and intermittent wails Yes, the director does lay on the symbolism of water a little thickly r Xiao-kang literally drifts through life, the dripping ceiling, the steamy claustrophobia of the sauna, rain, tears and what must surely be the longest piss in Cinema history but what you are left With is a rnovrng story of loneliness and devastation (Brian Donaldson)

g Edinburgh Fi/irihoiise from Fri 20

Water of life: Miao Tien in The River

STAR RATINGS a e r it —« Unmissable a, ii v: it Very good it» a w Worth a shot a k Below average it You've been warned