Star of Practical Magic
It's not unknown for a Hollywood star to be on the cover of Newsweek — there‘s plenty of prestige to be had by staring out from the news racks. However, when an actress, born in Honolulu but brought up in Australia, is splashed over the front of the magazine because she's doing (gasp!) live theatre, then you have to wonder about America's perception of what acting is really all about.
When Nicole Kidman first appeared at London’s Donmar Warehouse in David Hare’s The Blue Room, reviewers went into raptures, with one newspaper reckoning her performance was ’pure theatrical Viagra'. Whether this critical stimulation was due to Kidman’s thespian talents or the fact that she's seen nude for about twenty seconds is debatable. Since the play‘s transfer to Broadway, however, American critics have been equally gushing in their praise.
Kidman is indeed very good in the play — she has been nominated as Best Actress in the Olivier Awards - but coverage does seem to suggest
Life's a witch: Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock in Practical Magic
that adulation is automatic whenever a star descends from the upper echelons of Hollywood into a living, breathing theatre space. For confirmation, check the standing of Kevin Spacey, Juliette Binoche and Ewan McGregor after their recent stage outings. But for Kidman, it was about more than easy prestige — she continually has to establish herself as something other than Mrs Tom Cruise.
’I think, as a woman, when you reach the age of 27 or so, you start to have confidence in your own opinions,’ says Kidman, now 31. ’When I first came to the States from Australia, the first few years were really hard. You’re thrown off the diving board and the movie industry just says sink or swim. I was listening to other people instead of my instincts. Then I got lucky because I worked with Gus Van Sant in To Die For and Jane
Campion in The Portrait OfA Lady.’
Another test of her merits will come when Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut finally opens this summer. She and Cruise spent most of 1997 shooting this story of two psychiatrists who are sexually involved with their patients. She also found time to make Practical Magic, in which she and Sandra Bullock star as modern-day witches.
'I loved Elizabeth Montgomery in Bewitched,’ says Kidman of her inspiration. ’It had a big impact on girls at the time, and I always wanted to be a witch. I used to tell the kids at school that I could turn the teacher into a donkey.’
Now that’s a feat that would be worth the cover of Newsweek. (Alan Morrison)
“at General release from Fri 22 Jan
Director of Class Trip
Head man: Claude Miller directs Class Trip
Claude Miller, director of such minimalist French films as Garde A Vue, L’Effrontee and now Class Trip, has an eager presence quite at odds With his Cinematic style. At the end of
28 THE LIST 2i Jan—4 Feb I999
a talk he gave in Edinburgh during the French Film Festival last year, he didn’t only receive a round of applause, he also gave one.
Miller answers questions with an air of compromise, as if always aware of an opposing point of View. He's also open about his strengths and weaknesses. ’I’rn not strong on construction,’ he admits. ’I'rn better With feelings and ambience I’m interested in details.’
His subject matter has generally suited his filmic approach. Miller may have a weak sense of overarching narrative, but frequently his protagonists have been children — those who themselves have little interest in the trajectory of plot logic and future events
In Miller’s new film, he once again focuses on childhood The central character is fourteen-year-old Nicolas, given to morbid and murderous fantasies as he struggles under the weight of an overbearing father. The power of the father's presence is illustrated by his general absence. Nicolas, Spending time at a school holiday retreat in the Alps, can't get his father out of his rrrrnd
Miller’s aim is to reflect the neurotic boy's thoughts. This is, after all, a teenage boy at puberty - caught between the OLIISIde world of adulthood and the inside world of a child’s imagination. Traumatic enough for any child, it's doubly so if one considers the familial concerns to which the film alludes.
To illustrate the tension in the discrepancy between the outside world and inside the boy's head, Miller adopts a structure which incorporates fantaSy sequences and flashback In one scene, Nicolas imagines hooded hoodlums inachrne-guniring the school kids to death. Such moments are powerful, certainly, but their power resides in more than their cinematic presentation, and Miller is aware he may be opening up wounds
'There is always difficulty in blending scenes of fiction and realrty,’ he admits For many Scots, the Dunblane shootings wrll come to mind, but Miller inSIsts he wasn’t specifically thinking of any one tragedy ‘These things happen all over the world,’ he states (Tony McKibhin)
Glasgow Film Theatre and Edinburgh Fi/irihouse from Fri 2.) Jan See review
Kasi Lemmons Director of Eve's Bayou
'I love it when you ask individual members of feuding families why they haven’t spoken to each other for years, and they each have a totally different take on it.’ It's this fascination with the concept of selective memory which inspired actress and writer Kasi Lemmons to invent the Batistes, a French Creole family who first appeared in some of her short stories.
’If you give me any situation, I can tell you how each Batiste would talk,’ she says. ’They’re my personal ghosts and their story has been in my head for years.’
Best known as an actress, having appeared opposite Jodie Foster in The Silence Of The Lambs, Lemmons initially had no intention of directing Eve’s Bayou, her screenplay about the Batistes.
’I’ve been writing all my life, but it wasn’t until I started talking to directors about Eve’s Bayou, and saw that they were a little frightened of it, that I contemplated directing it myself. Since it features children with a slightly sexual theme, it's potentially very scary. It had to be done absolutely right and could be messed up really easily But I knew exactly how it needed to be played and directed, so I deCided to do it myself.’
And this is what Lemmons did, despite the fact that she was pregnant at the time the film got the green light 'I started filming immediately after havrng my baby,’ she says. 'I was determined, though, that if I ever got the opportunity to make a movre that I would take it, and I wasn’t gorng to shirk away from it even though the baby happened at the same time.’
Since Lemmons makes no attempt to deny that directing was the hardest thing she’s ever done, Will she be likely to do it again? ’Yes,’ she replies. ’I’d love to do a sequel
; because I'm not quite done wrth the
Batistes I've. not quite laid them to
rest yet.’ (Beth Williams) Available to rent on video from
Wed 20 Jan. See review
Memory game: Kasi Lemmons turns to directing with Eve's Bayou