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new releases

Saving Private Ryan (15) 170 mins mean: *

In recent years, Steven Spielberg has alternated crowd-pleasing entertainments with rather more earnest fare; he edited Jurassic Park, for example, while shooting Schindler’s List on location in Poland. Following on from the history lesson that was Amistad, Saving Private Ryan also falls into the latter category. Like no film in recent memory, it focuses attention squarely on the brutalities endured by American soldiers in World War II.

Central to this impact is the already legendary opening half hour, detailing with remorseless brilliance the carnage of the D-Day landings. Tom Hanks leads his squad from the landing barge onto the Normandy beaches where, as history records, American troops suffered heavy losses.

Spielberg harnesses all the techniques of hyper-real filmmaking that he himself developed - in everything from Jaws to Raiders Of

The Lost Ark and creates a verite action sequence that’s all the more visceral because of its historical context. Imitating the up-close-and-personal intimacy of a newsreel camera, Spielberg puts the viewer in the thick of the action. Heads are blown off, limbs fly, bullets pound the water, the sea turns red: this is filmmaking at

its absolute finest.

Understandably enough, Spielberg finds it hard to follow up this bravura introduction. The actual meat of the story, in which Hanks is sent off with the remnants of his unit to locate the eponymous Ryan (Matt Damon), is built on rugged rather than subtle lines. For instance, there's a moment of fatal patriotic sentimentality as the spirit of Lincoln and Mrs Bixby is evoked she’s the Civil War widow who, as all American schoolkids learn, suffered the trauma of losing all five of her sons in battle. That's the motivation of the rescue mission: three Ryan brothers are killed in different parts of the global

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grieving mother.

war, and the last one left alive is to be sent home to his

Hanks heads across country with his motley crew, among them a tough-guy sergeant (Tom Sizemore); a bolshie squaddie (Ed Burns); and a naive translator (Jeremy Davies). This being a Spielberg movie, there's

rivalry, self-growth and bonding, but such is the


momentum generated, you can easily forgive its cloying

What you do get is an impeccable ensemble performance, where even Hanks takes a subordinate role to the movie itself. By the time Spielberg closes proceedings with a battle scene on a smaller but only slightly less intense scale than the one he opens with, everyone (audience included) has been put through the mill to an unprecedented degree in this landmark piece of moviemaking. (Andrew Pulver)

General release from Fri 7 I Sep. See preview

Metroland (18) 101 mins **

It's 1977, and Chris is becalmed in Metroland, the suburban sprawl at the end of London Underground's Metropolitan line. In his early 305, he is held fast by job, marriage and fatherhood. Then his old school friend Toni arrives to stir up his calm domesticity and remind him of the time when they were rebellious public schoolboys cocking a snook at the bourgeoisie.

Has Chris become what he once railed against? Could his life have turned out differently? His thoughts go

24 THELIST 10—24 Sep i998

The age of the train: Christian Bale and Lee Ross in Metroland

back to 1968, when he was an aspiring photographer living in Paris and enjoying a sentimental education courtesy of his chic French girlfriend Annick. But suburbia's graVitational pull was apparently too strong . .

In bringing Julian Barnes' debut novel (published in 1980) to the screen, director Philip Savrlle has failed to translate those Qualities that made the original enjoyable. Barnes' cool intelligence and playful wit are sadly missing from the film, as is his ironic authorial voice, which affectionately sent up Chris and Toni’s youthful pretensions while celebrating their

enthusiasm and eneiiiy

The book devoted eiiual space to its three periods (1963, 1968, 1.97%, whereas Sat/illes flill‘ cei‘ce'it'ates r z: the book's {fullest episode, We ‘V’Cs,

With flishht‘ickst (TM. (a! rt-r ‘rnvs Tlt's change (if c’.’lii‘ibl:i‘il\ "."is Aii'letro/aiiu' .‘ictm a Ll‘i:""3:"i(; 'BI/(fU/TL'JSF:Tlliti/I’ il‘i. a routine Suburban dr'airia Teii- s rattles)

bohemian eXistence is pitteri‘ against Chris’s settled middle-class size, but neither seems particiila'ly appealing and the film fails to generate sparks from the friction between them.

The actors give of then best, but there is the sense that they are struggling against the material. Neither Christian Bale nor Lee Ross, as Chris and Toni, are particularly comfortable as teenage schoolboys, while Emin Watson can do little With the thankless part of Chris' dependable Wife Elsa Zylberstein as Annick gives the liveliest performance, but, sadly, the Parisian scenes are merely an IHICFIUdO The film can’t wait to get back to suburbia (Jason Best)

Edinburgh Film/rouse from Fri 7 7 Sep. Glasgow Film Theatre from Fri l8 Sep.

Cousin Bette (15) 108 mins s a stir

It’s still a surprise to some that James Ivory, director of the films that have come to define British costume drama, is an American. Now it’s the turn of Ivory’s fellow countryman, Des Mc‘Anuff, to fill a movie full of ringlets, bonnets and fancy corsets, while leaving all those stuffy British adaptations wheezing in a dusty library, Cousin Bette brings a wicked whiff of spirit to the world of period drama

Based on a Balzac novel, the story ceiities on middle-aged spinster Bette (Jessica Lange), whose status as poor relation is compounded when her more favoured cousin dies. Widower Hector Hulot (Hugh Laurie) offers her the position of housekeeper (she’d been hoping for marriage) and, feeling eternally spurned, Bette returns to her menial job as dressmaker at the theatre where Hulot's mistress, singer Jenny Catline (Elisabeth Shue), reigns supreme.

When she l‘s emotionally betrayed by Hulot's daughter Hortense (Kelly i’vlacdonald) and a young sculptor (Aden Youch whose life she saved, Bette constructs a plan of revenge that ensures each indiVidual’s particular character flaw is used to hasten their downfall.

The \Vllly script picks away at the fivpocrisies of the aristocracy while the pac'v direction drives us effortlessly towards the inevitable and satisfying conclusion. It's clear that these respectable-on-the-surface, debt- ridden peOpIe are decaying from Within, and McAnuff hints at the destruction of an entire class with brief scenes of growing sooal unrest on the pciflslrill streets.

lvlacdonald, in her first costume role, is perfect as the 19th century French version of a silly wee lassie: spoilt, sweet and ready for a fall. But in the acting stakes, the film belongs to Lange In a single look she can convey Bette's disappomtment at life, Yet hint at a whole different history had her beauty been allowed to flourish. Cousin Bette may be ab0ut deceptive surfaces, but it is a film of rewarding :ler‘th iAlart MOH‘lSOll)

General release from Fri 77 Sep. See 'z"-a_'.'/!'e

Bette your life: Jessica Lange in Cousin Bette

STAR RATINGS * a a: 'k « Unmissable one at it Very 900d x * er Worth a shot it it Below average it You've been warned