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Close, but no cigar: John Travolta is the Clinton-esque politician in Primary Colours

Primary Colors

(15) 143 mins a it a a

Now we know all there is to know about President Clinton's sexual proclivities, the belated appearance of Primary Colors can only seem, if you’ll pardon the expression, an anti-climax. After the publication of Kenneth Starr's prurient, pornographic report, the movie inevitably looks a bit tame and coy. But even though it has been overtaken by events, there is still a fair amount of satirical bite in this fictional portrayal of a Southern politician whose rampant libido continually threatens to scupper his pursuit of the presidency.

Based on American political journalist Joe Klein’s anonymously published novel, Primary Colors tells the story - thinly disguised - of Bill Clinton's fight to win the 1992 Democratic primary campaign. Fortunately, you don't have to care about the ins and outs of Clinton’s career to enjoy the film as a timeless morality tale that lays bare the seductions and betrayals that inevitably accompany the quest for power.

The film opens with an offscreen voice analysing the various hand-shaking styles of Jack Stanton, the progressive governor of a Southern state, who is making a bid for the US presidency. The idealistic young man who has been listening to this lesson in practical

politics is Henry Burton, grandson of a famous civil rights leader from the 605. When he agrees to become one of Stanton’s leading aides, he is drawn into the heart of the campaign, but soon loses his political innocence.

Primary Colors boasts a witty script by Elaine May and assured direction by Mike Nichols, but its greatest strength is its casting. John Travolta brings his luminous charisma to the role of Stanton - and with a tubby physique and greying hair, he even looks a lot like Clinton. But more importantly, he convinces you that his character can be both starry-eyed idealist and cynical manipulator, sincere man of the people and lecherous snake.

Travolta is well supported by Emma Thompson as Stanton's steely wife and fellow Brit Adrian Lester as the callow Burton, while Kathy Baker as the campaign's gun-toting lesbian trouble-shooter and Billy Bob Thornton as a redneck political strategist also deliver impressive performances. But the film’s most inspired stroke of casting is Larry Hagman, in a role that couldn't be further from the ruthless JR of Dallas, as Stanton’s weak, honourable, but equally flawed opponent.

(Jason Best) 1 General release from Fri 30 Oct

Rock chick: Toni Collette in Velvet Goldmine

Velvet Goldmine (18) 123 mins a er a a

offspring of extra-terrestrials Of course the prologue isn't to be

euphoria is offset by the multitude of issues the film deals ‘.‘.’lil‘i and by its‘ downbeat which looks toxziards the :ziiiserw—‘stive, (ioinrnerc'ial 80s

That said, there's much watching charismatic perfoiiiiances the androgynous Jonathan Rhys l.leyers using and falling in Zl(}(}‘,’ Stardust fashion, Ewan l\l((3rego: letting rip as an Iggy Pop/Kurt Cobain hybrid, and Eddie


fun to be had the

Think of the 70s, and kitsch fashion trends and pop music come to mind. That's largely because the ongoing 70s reVival has co-opted the most overblown aspects of that era -- flared trousers, shaggy hairstyles, disco fever, progressive rock. In keeping With that strategy, the audacious opening of Todd Haynes' portrait of the glam rock era suggests its popstars were direct descendants of the original glam star, Oscar Wilde, who, in turn, was the

32 THE UST 22 Oct-S Nov 1998

taken literally. Haynes' appioath to his Subject is boldly fictional, as terebral as it is purely entertaining Using the veiy British glam phenomenon, the young American director examines more universal themes: sexuality, identity, non~conformity. It's a tactic that makes his third feature (after Poison and [Safe]) a slightly disconcerting experience. Where you might expect to leave the cinema With an adrenaline rush of sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll, that

prowling the vocals on a mix of covers and original songs) are good enough to deserve a CD soundtrack release in their own right Velvet Goldmine is a 'long player' which demands (and deserves) to be appreciated With a keen ear and eye. (Miles Fielder)

$3 Selected release from Fri 23 Oct.

N lzzarrl, dolled up in pin-stripes and ‘f sideburns, paying homage to Michael Carnt‘ It goes ‘.‘.’llll()tll saying that the music. is fabulous this is, after all, really a intisital Centre stage, Llevers and Hilde ;- .'li'li:il‘.(] and singing are satzsfyingly (iedi'ole Batk stage, as it were, one of the film's three fittional iotk bands, a Roxy l.lusi(-es(iue grout) (\‘Jllll Radiohead's Thom Yorke


(15) 120 mins ****

With an Indian director at the helm and an Australian actress in the title role, this biopic of Elizabeth I was never going to be a typical frock flick. Shekhar Kapur's film may be ravishing to look at, but it's altogether darker and more disturbing than you’d expect. His fluent, mobile camera prowls shadowy corridors and spies on claustrophobic chambers, making a political thriller from Tudor history, while Cate Blanchett's performance turns cherished notions about England's Virgin Queen on their head. We first see Blanchett’s Elizabeth dallying with her lover, the Earl of Leicester - the film isn’t coy, their relationship is carnal, not platonic. But although the young Elizabeth is sexually experienced, she is innocent in the ways of the world. She is, however, sharp enough to survive the bloody reign of her Catholic half-sister Mary. And she grows in stature when she succeeds to the throne, resisting the intrigues of the country's leading Catholic nobles and playing her rival suitors off against each other while continuing to enjoy Leicester’s favours. But there is a price to be paid for the security of her reign and Blanchett brilliantly conveys the emotional cost. As the sensuous, luminous girl becomes a queen, she gradually petrifies. Her costumes become stiffer and more constricting, and her auburn hair is shorn, replaced by a red wig. Finally, her skin disappears beneath alabaster-like make-up, turning her into a plaster saint, a Protestant icon to replace CatholiCIsm’s Virgin Mary. Blanchett’s astonishing performance dominates the film, but she is well supported by Geoffrey Rush’s enigmatic spymaster Walsingham, Christopher Ecclestone's bull-like Norfolk and Fanny Ardant’s Amazonian Mary of Guise. Joseph Fiennes’ weak Leicester lets the side down, but the same can't be said of Eric Cantona’s wry French ambassador. Kapur doesn't always achieve the right tone (the deliberately anachronistic music sometimes strikes a false note), but the film remains a gripping and intelligent work. (Jason Best) General release from Fri 23 Oct.

Royal romance: Joseph Fiennes and Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth

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