FILM new releases

Oscar and Lucinda

(15) 132 mins ***

Adapted from Peter Carey's Booker Prize-winning novel and directed by Little Women’s Gillian Armstrong, Oscar And Lucinda sets out to unfold a grand, dreamlike fable - one of glass and water, fate, passion and unconsummated love. Ultimately, it falls short of such a shimmering goal, though it could be argued that it's perfectly fitting for this particular film to exist as an obscurer aimed folly.

In 19th century England, having abandoned the faith of his puritanical father, Oscar Hopkins (Ralph Fiennes) studies for the Anglican ministry at Oxford, there gradually becoming guiltin obsessed with gambling in all its forms. Meanwhile, Lucinda Leplastrier (the excellent Cate Blanchett), an Australian heiress who has recently taken over a glass factory, has likewise fallen under the gambling spell, frequenting late-night card tables and gaming dens in search of sport. Such behaviour scandalises the gossips of Sydney, and her partner in the factory, the Reverend Hasset, is banished in disgrace by his Church superiors to a remote village.

When Oscar exiles himself to Australia to become a missionary, he encounters Lucinda and they discover their mutual passion, which soon leads to Oscar too

losing his position in the community. Hoping to prove himself to Lucinda, he makes one last wager with her: that he can transport the glass church she has designed across a vast and treacherous landscape to Hasset's far-

flung parish.

Frequently magnificent to look at, Oscar And Lucinda nonetheless lacks that hallucinatory, visionary beauty needed to lift itself above plot concerns or distract us from its running time. Also, what visual poetry there is is often undermined by an accompanying histrionic swelling of the score, particularly in the glass church scenes.

Both leads do well with the characters they have been

Playing to win: Cate Blanchett in Oscar And tucinda

given, particularly Blanchett as a sweetly gauche, fragile iconoclast. Fiennes animates Oscar with a nervous, crow-like intensity all frets, fidgets, carroty hair and pale watery eyes. He portrays a man consumed, which

is perhaps where the fault begins; there is a definite

Hive of activity: Patricia Richardson in Ulee's Gold

Ulee's Gold (15)111mins at t a: *

Although not a winner, Peter Fonda received an Oscar nomination for his performance in this Victor Nunez movie about a bee-keeping veteran of the Vietnam War.

Set in the Tupelo marshes of the Florida Panhandle, Ulee's Gold is the touching tale of Ulee (Fonda) who, devastated by hrs wife’s death, has cut himself off emotionally from hrs friends and famrly. His son, Jimmy (Tom Wood), is in Jail for a bank robbery and

30 THELIST 2—16 Apr l998

his daughter-rn-Iaw, Helen (Chrrstrne

,Dunford), has disappeared, Ieavrng

Ulee to provide a home for his two young granddaughters, Casey (Jessica Bell) and Penny (Vanessa Zrma). Spending most of his time wrth the bees, Ulee quretly gets on With hrs solitary existence untrl he recerves a call from hrs son telling hrm that Helen rs rn trouble. As he takes action to retrieve his daughter-in-law from ermy’s former partners rn crime, Ulee finds himself becomrng rncreasrngly less withdrawn. Helped and supported by

sense of some vital element missing from Oscar. It's as though the factor which explains Lucinda's love for him is one we're not made privy to. Here, this inadequacy conjures no dream or enigma, but simply renders his fate less than tragedy. (Damien Love)

& Glasgow Film Theatre and Edinburgh Film/rouse from Fri 3 Apr. See feature, page 74

hrs neighbour, Connre (Patrrcra chhardson), a srrnrlarly emotronally disconnected character, he gradually begrns to garn personal strength and frnally reconnect wrth hrs farnrly

Wrth a bee-keeprng metaphor runnrng throughout, and character names such as Ulysses, Penelope and Helen drawrng attentron to the Odyssean nature of Ulee's lrfe Journey, thrs movre has the taste of berng rather contrived Nevertheless, rt does also have many pornts rn rts favour Whrle beautrful and atmospheric scenrc photography rernforces the overall mood of the frlm, a grrpprng crrme intrigue plot drrves the story along.

The prrme drrvrng force behrnd the film, however, is Fonda's admrrable performance Hrs deprctron of thrs complex frgure, who blossoms from a closed bud rnto the reSponsrble family man he once was, not only serves to rernforce the strength of the varred women characters around hrm, but is also both movrng and honest Sweet and sensrtrve, Ulee's Gold rs an rnoflerrsrve and magrcal family drama. (Beth erlrams)

5 Selected release from Fri 3 Apr See preview

TwentyFourSeven (15) 97 mins i: 4: *‘3k*

Shane Meadows rs probably srck and tired of hearing ’masterprece’ thrs and ‘Great Brrtish Hope’ that. Then again, he shouldn't go around makrng frlms whrch leave the vrewer knowrng they have seen art of rare glory TwentyFourSeven ~ hours rn the day, days of the week and the emptiness therern - rs almost certainly the most notable portrayal of Nottingham since Albert Finney refused to be ground down rn Saturday Night, Sunday Morning

Shot rn dazzling black and whrte, we see an old clown-and-out called Darcy (Bot) Hoskrns) It) the erderness berng rescued from the brrnk of desparr and rnsanrty. From there we trace how he sprralled downwards to that srtuatron, learnrng that he had rnvested hrs energy rnto brrngrno the male youth of the area together by openrng a hoxrng club. Hope rs rergnrted, although the realrsatron that rt rs bound to be extrngurshed rs never far from the surface

Hoskrns rs marvellous as the northern soul whose best efforts seem unlrkely to be fully appreciated, wrth a wrdeboy Cockney promoter and less than approvrng parents makrng thrngs drlfrcult And some of the lads who have splendch names lrke Tonka and Fagash are reluctant to give up therr pot and sloth for health, ambrtron, a future. That krnd of thrng.

TwentyFOr/rSeverr rs all the more remarkable when you realrse that the majority of actors are the drrector’s mates, some of whom have brg futures ahead. A mrnor gurhhle rs the feelrng that at trrnes you could be watching an extended pop vrdeo guys playing football rn slo-mo, etc - but that would be prckrng at nrts.

Whrle the crnematography and the subject of boxrng may make you want to read the frlm as a contemporary and peCUlrarly Brrtrsh versron of Raging Bull, Meadows lays no clarms to makrng grand statements about masculrnrty, He Just knows how to make a harsh and beautiful frlrn. (Brran Donaldson) a Selected release from Fri 70 Apr.

Street tough: Darren Campbell in TwentyFourSeven