new releases

Jackie Brown (15) 154 mins mu ii

‘Pamela Grier is Jackie Brown' runs the trailer for Quentin Tarantino's blaxploitation homage, and indeed she is. Grier was the star of a numerous 705 flicks featuring kinky Afros and wacca-wacca guitar soundtracks until the blaxploitation boom ended. But Tarantino exhumes Hollywood career corpses for a living, and after performing the service for John Travolta, he has done the same for the sassiest on- screen momma of his film-obsessed youth.

Casting is one of the keys to Tarantino’s success, and he has a knack of harnessing film's history to work for in his favour. You don't need to have seen Foxy Brown to know that Grier arrives on screen with baggage, and it’s not just the carry-on variety that she packs for her job as an air stewardess. We know that Jackie Brown is a woman who has made her mistakes in a previous decade, and is still making the repayments.

With commendable economy. Tarantino virtually establishes this during the opening credits. But that's about the only thing in Jackie Brown that's concise, and the director just loves to hear his characters run their mouths off. The audience must too if it's going to enjoy this sprawling, funky, triple-crossing heist movie about a Federal Agent sting to trap a gun-runner. Fortunately Tarantino has lost none of his ear for dialogue, and the talk is pure pleasure.

Much has been written about his fascination with the word 'nigger', but Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson) is a rounded character which means that this verbal tic is just one detail of many. If the word jars on the page, it doesn't on screen. Though the Jackie Burke/Brown character was white in Elmore Leonard's source novel, Rum Punch, the colour switch doesn't turn this into a

Drive. she said: Pam Grier in Jackie Brown

laboured race issue movie.

Jackie Brown is a classic Hollywood thriller in the sense that it is about the enjoyment of the moment, rather simply finding out whodunnit or in this case, who's screwing who. Tarantino really relishes throwing together this bunch of outlaws who play weak hands with the poker faces of natural born hustlers. Where Pulp Fiction was frequently gratuitous, Jackie Brown is a proper grown-up movie whose power comes from its restraint. After showing the first signs of hubris, Tarantino is again taking care of business.

(Eddie Gibb) R General release from Fri 70 Apr

The high Lama: Gyurme Tethong in Kundun

heaVily wrought film. It's a sometimes gentle, sometimes Violent transcription of Buddhism With languorous Visuals and a pulsating music score by Philip Glass. The first hour, While beautiful to watch, does pass very slowly, With its slight narrative and emphasis on place and movement, ritual and deference. As the film continues, though, it becomes engrossing and, by the end, it has a curious calming energy all of its own.

The production went to considerable pains to recreate Tibetan locations as authentically as possible, budding huge sets in the Moroccan desert, manufacturing hundreds of costumes

Kundun (15) 140 mins *- he

Martin Scorsese’s films often contain a spiritual theme (usually CatholiCIsm), but Kundun is something radically different for him a biography of the fourteenth Dalai Lama, which is also a painstaking record of a culture close to extinction.

The film begins in rural Tibet in 1937, when two-year-old Tenzin Gyatso (played by remarkable toddler Tenzin Yeshi Paichang) is discovered to be the

28 THE US? 2—16 Apr 1998

reincarnation of the diVine Buddha of Compassion. It traces his upbringing and education through to 1950 when, at only fifteen, he must shOUIder the burden of invaSion and atrocity by the Chinese, along With the humiliating contempt of Chairman Mao (expertly played by Robert Lin) and the indifference of the West He remains true to the ideal of non-Violence throughout (as does Scorsese, relatively), but by 1959 has to flee to India for his life.

Kundun is a highly Cinematic, though

and casting Tibetan actors, some of Whom are related to their characters, and all of whom are excellent.

The film was conceived largely by Melissa Mathieson, who consulted With the Dalai Lama extensively. Mathieson scripted the story of perhaps the most famous exile of them all ET And if that seems irreverently inappropriate, it’s sadder to think that, in reality, Tenzin Gyatso Will probably never go home. (John MacKenzie)

I Selected release from Fri 3 Apr. Edinburgh Filmhouse from Fri 7 May.

Sphere (12) 133 mins * it ‘k

As a novelist Whose books are routinely adapted for the screen, Jurassic Park author Michael Crichton is to sCience fiction what Stephen King is to horror. Although his work conspicuously lacks originality, he has the storytelling skill to pass off reCycled popular SCience as prof0und futuristic fiction, at least to those who only buy novels at airports.

For Sphere, Crichton lifts the central premise of Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky's Solar/s, plus the underwater setting and claustrophobic tensions of James Cameron's The Abyss. Anyone who saw Event Horizon ~ another Solar/Ls clone will also recognise the mysterious spherical object, which causes the characters to give physical form to their innermost fears.

Director Barry Levmson was drawn to the genre by a scenario that relied less on hardware than on relationships. A group of scientists trapped inside a cramped submarine pod at the bottom of the ocean have only a giant submerged spaceship, the enigmatic sphere and each other for company. Dustin Hoffman’s idealistic psychologist, Sharon Stone’s emotionally unstable biochemist, Samuel L. Jackson’s sceptical mathematioan and Liev Schreiber's disposable astrophysic'ist all apply their own specialist knowledge to the conundrum, watched over by their cryptic team leader, Peter Coyote, In the end, though, it is the sphere that looks into them, rather than they who look into the sphere.

The designs and special effects are classy, and the top notch cast works hard to breathe some humanity into the escalating levels of paranoia, suspICion and mistrust, but Levinson’s more cerebral pretensions are sunk by a flawed narrative that buckles under pressure, admitting a flood of contradictions. During the last half-hour, it becomes transparently clear that the only logical conclLJSIon is a fulfilment of Jackson's gloomy prediction, ’We're all gonna die down here’ However, Since three major stars are involved, the ludicrous happy ending feels as if it has been lifted from a rejected X-Fi/es episode. (Nigel Floyd)

I General release from Fri 3 Apr.

Round trip: Sharon Stone in Sphere

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