The Thin Red Line
(15) 170 mins are at it
If a week is a long time in politics, then twenty years must be an _» . eternity in the fickle world of the is? (g,
film industry. It's been two decades ﬂ ( u tat since Terrence Malick made his last 0. “ ‘3" a; V» movie, the critically adored, 1 ., ‘* commercially ignored Days Of 33: Heaven. That film's box office ‘ ‘ failure did little to diminish the [ff—A, director's reputation as an artist (his ‘“ debut Badlands was described as the best by an American since Citizen Kane) and it was generally assumed he would follow the same .
auteurist path as his contemporaries, Coppola and Scorsese.
Malick, however, had other ideas. He went to Europe, where he earned a crust as a long-distance script doctor and as a lecturer in Jungian psychology. As the years passed, he became a mythic and revered figure in Hollywood, until eventually it was announced that he would adapt James Jones's slab of a wartime novel, The Thin Red Line. To call the film eagerly anticipated is a massive understatement, but does it - can it - live up to expectations? Well, yes and no.
This is very much a director's film, with Malick as the star. Movie A-list types John Travolta, Woody Harrelson, John Cusack and George Clooney make cameo appearances (in Clooney's case lasting no more than 90 seconds), gladly subjugating themselves to the master's genius. The bulk of the action centres on Nick Nolte, Elias Koteas, Sean Penn, Ben Chaplin and Jim Caviezel as the chain of command for C Company, the luckless outfit charged with taking a vital hilltop stronghold in the battle for Guadalcanal.
In an audacious and not entirely successful move, the director uses one of World War "'5 bloodiest encounters
War and grease: John Cusack in The Thin Red Line
as a backdrop against which he explores themes of mortality, masculinity and man's relationship with nature. At times it's difficult to concentrate on the philosophical and psychological arguments put forward, especially when they undercut the individual heroism and suffering on display. That said, it's hard to criticise a film for having too many ideas.
Ultimately, The Thin Red Line demands to be seen by anyone interested in cinema: how much you enjoy it will depend on which word you consider the most important in the phrase ’flawed masterpiece'.
(Rob Fraser) I General release from Fri 5 Mar. See Nick Nolte feature.
TV times: Tobey Maguire and Reese Witherspoon in Pleasantville
kitchen. DaVid desperately attempts to live up to each episode's plot, but when Jennifer shows the captain of the basketball team what his jockstrap is there to protect, she starts a domino effect of changes. Pleasantville and many of its citizens gradually become colourised, eventually leading to division and conflict.
If this was just a gimmick movie, it would be a brilliant one - the colourisation special effects are highly accomplished and very beautiful. But Pleasantvi/le is also a relentlessly inventive comedy With a sharp script and characters you come to care about very quickly. Tobey Maguire follows up a solid performance in The Ice Storm
Pleasantville (12) 124 mins dramas
Opponunist politiCians always contrast modern problems with ’the good old days'. In his directorial debut, Gary Ross takes a darkly comic look at this mythical utopia.
Pleasantville opens in a school classroom where a teacher outlines the bleak future his pupils can expect. This contemporary America is the dispirited society inhabited by 905 kids David
24 THE LIST 4—18 Mal I999
(Tobey Maguire) and his sister Jennifer (Reese Witherspoon). She is sluttish, he is obsessed with Pleasantvi/le, an I Love Lucy-style SOs sitcom where the smell of apple pie hangs heavy in the air. Thanks to a dodgy plot twist, David and Jennifer are zapped into P/easantville and are forced to pose as Bud and Mary Sue, two 'swell' teens in this monochrome world where sex, art and passion are unknown, and women's lib means the freedom to spend your life in a thoroughly modern
very convincingly, while William H. Macy, Jeff Daniels and Joan Allen are brilliant in supporting roles. However, Gary Ross stumbles with a cloyingly p05itive yet unfinished ending and a racial disharmony analogy which feels clumsy and trite.
Still, if you like the sound of It’s A Wonderful Life meets The Twilight Zone and The Wizard Of 02, then this fairy tale of American identity is for you. (Peter Ross) m General release from Fri 72 Mar.
Central Station (15) 110 mins W d it s:-
Sugar-coated neo-realism or a film that stares poverty in the eye? Walter Salles' international hit is a careful blend of social document and the lachrymose. It‘s the story of a young Rio de Janeiro street urchin (Vinicius de Oliveira) left alone after his mother dies. It's also about a former schoolteacher (Fernanda Montenegro) turned letter writer for the illiterate in whose care he finds himself. Though 'care' might not be the word: initially she sells him to a dodgy adoption agency for the price of a television set.
This is a harsh world after all. In one early scene, the director shows us a thief chased through the Rio railway station with the police shooting this petty criminal dead for stealing a toy. And yet, for all the evident misery, the visual style often suggests the idyllic. Salles bathes the movie in burnished light and candied shadows. There's even the odd, luxuriant hurtling track or sweeping crane shot to show that there's a few cruzados behind the camera if not in front of it.
Nevertheless, the story’s the thing. After forcibly removing de Oliveira from the care home, Montenegro and the boy flee into the countryside. On the run, certainly, but also seeking. The film explores that Latin American mainstay: the search for a missing loved one. The boy’s father is thought still to be alive and the film moves inland. Utilising dust-choked and sparsely populated locations, the film drifts its protagonist towards an ever closer bonding as the country becomes increasmgly spare, enervated.
That we can see where the film is going doesn’t necessarily mean it reaches its destination. There’s something curiously satisfying about Salles' blend of realism and narrative expectation. It’s a rare filmmaker who wants the viewer to feel, in Salles’ words, ’an urgent relation with reality', while at the same time working the audience’s emotions with some of the oldest tricks in the book. (Tony McKlbbin)
ﬂ Glasgow Film Theatre and Edinburgh Cameo from Fri 72 Mar.
Bay from Brazil: Vinicius de Oliveira in Central Station
STAR RATINGS w e ii: ii: at Unmissable w e 9: it Very good it i it Worth a shot x it Below average st You've been warned