FILM new releases
William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream
(PG) 115 mins *1k*~k
it was Max Reinhardt who in 1934 realised the potential of film to expand and enhance the power of Shakespeare's text in his Hollywood production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Not since then has any film version sought to pay loyal tribute to this classic tale of misbegotten romance and fairy magic. Until now.
The new film opens with the stunning vista of Tuscany's verdant rolling hills and then pans down to a grand Renaissance palace, where a flurry of activity is taking place in preparation for the wedding of Duke Theseus. And yes, your memory does serve you well. Shakespeare did in fact set his play in ancient Greece. but director Michael Hoffman, cautious that such a distant setting might also distance his audience, instead chose Tuscany at the turn of the century. Unnecessary but apt. as it was a time when high collars and bustles were beginning to loosen and the new invention of the bicycle allowed for greater freedom. Hoffman, therefore, draws upon these factors in highlighting the conflict between the old and young generations in the
The story itself — a playful treatment of the timeless
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Kevin Kline in A Midsummer Night's Dream
axiom that 'The course of true love never did run smooth' involves two young couples not yet coupled. as
it were. and their comical attempts to be so amid the
magic and confusion of the nearby forest. Because of the wealth of material in Shakespeare's play. including the Fairy King and Queen's domestic fail-out and the preparations made by a group of locals to stage a play at the Duke's wedding, individual performances correspondingly have to be larger than life in order to make an impact. Were it not for the subtext involving local villagers and the placing among this group of Kevin Kline in the role of Bottom, the acting in this film would however, be less than inspirational. His heart- warming and sensitive treatment of the usually strictly comic Bottom adds depth and tragedy to a story that would otherwise be swamped by the albeit stunning
Built upon the 'Feliini soundstage‘ at Rome's Cinecitta Studios, the production's masterpiece is undoubtedly the Magic Forest. Shakespeare's text finds its cinematic home in this lush world inhabited by nymphs, satyrs. centaurs and Medusas and delivers the spellbinding magic, making this film a beauty to behold.
I General release from Fri 24 Sep.
Magnificent man andlyi
The Theory Of Flight (15) 100 mins *‘k‘k
Despite the casting of real-life couple Kenneth Branagh and Helena Bonham Carter in the lead roles, there's been little advance publicity about The Theory Of Flight. Directed by Paul Greengrass (best known for the TV film, The Murder Of Stephen Lawrence), it turns out to be a real cinematic oddity, by turns entertaining and embarrassing, sarcastic and soft- centred, as it charts the efforts of a disabled and terminally-ill woman to
30 THE [131' 23 Sep—7 Oct 1999
ng machine?: Kenneth Brangh in The Theory Of Flight
experience sexual intercourse.
Branagh plays Richard, a struggling artist who finds himself sentenced to 120 hours of community service. Moving to an isolated farmhouse in Wales, where he attempts to build a primitive flying machine, his first social work job is to look after a young woman Jane (Carter), who is suffering from motor neurone disease. Despite her disability, the fiercely independent Jane doesn't want any special treatment from her new carer, just some assistance in losing her virginity
before it’s too late.
Given the taboo subject matter, it's perhaps surprising that The Theory Of Flight should generate so many laughs, with Branagh's character in particular being equipped with a deliciously sardonic streak. 'That was a time when being an artist meant wearing a beret and a smock and behaving like a twat,‘ he muses when looking at an earlier self-portrait.
Unfortunately, sentimentality eventually overwhelms the black humour — the script crudely spells out its ideas on ‘taking flight' and 'handicap' metaphors. And, as so often in movies, it's the dying person who teaches those close to them how to live. Carter's portrayal of the disabled Jane has been highly praised, although one can never forget that
behind the mannerisms - head lolled
to one side, heavily distorted voice — is a beautiful actress pretending to be confined to a wheelchair. Far more engaging is her co-star Branagh as the stubbied, dishevelled and embittered inventor, who provides one of his best performances for years in this otherwise erratic film. (Tom Dawson)
I Selected release from Fri 24 Sep.
Final Cut (18) 93 mins *1” ,_ . V
What seems to start as a self indulgent North London actors' vanity project actually transforms into something akin to a racy, perverse version of the 1951 Alaistair Sim vehicle Laughter In Paradise. in that film a family patriarch dies and allows his will to be executed only if the meek members of his family perform ridiculous tasks.
In Final Cut the death of a young actor Jude (Jude Law) brings together all his best mates at his funeral. His wife Sadie (Sadie Frost) insists they watch the film that Jude was making just before his death (he was murdered, but by who?) The film comprises the secret filming of Jude's mates and the resulting montage (trashing each other's houses, being unfaithful, even stealing from one another) pushes the limit of what friendship is. Chaos follows as home truths are given a painful airing.
Stylistically, this is familiar stuff. The directors, Dominic Anciano and Ray Burdis, (who also play Jude‘s coke- sniffing media friends Dominic and Burdis), are responsible for the excellent and hilarious TV show Operation Good Guys - a tongue-in- cheek fly-on-the-wall depiction of a crap police force. These two are past masters at the type of giddy naturalism that borders on hysteria. The trouble is they are ill-served by the transition to the feature-length format; what seems clever and funny in a half hour format becomes laboured over this length. There is also some vaguely sycophantic point being made about celebrity and fame as all the actors seem to be playing themselves, or semi- fictionalised versions thereof (most noticeably Ray Winstone doing an impression of an East End gangster doing an impression of an actor).
Final Cut is, however, lively and surprising enough to hold the interest and the improvising cast are very good. For pure home movie-style voyeurism this film is hard to beat. (Paul Dale)
I Selected release from Fri 1 Oct.
Toolin‘ up: Jude Law in Final Cut