The Last Days (12) 87 mins *‘k‘k

Any Holocaust documentary is inevitably a footnote to Shoah, Claude Lanzmann's exhaustive 1986 study of guilt and the process of remembering. The Last Days takes a similar approach with its in-depth interviews; but it risks the suspicion of pedants and experts with its tagline 'Everything You're About To See Is True'. If Lanzmann's project left one dominant impression, it was that the 'truth' of the Holocaust is elusive, distorted by time and memory, ultimately impossible to retrieve in anything but the most fragmented form. The claim to have captured the truth, to have created a definitive record, is to be regarded with caution.

Still, this Oscar-winning first release from Steven Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation adds a further chapter to the dossier of testimonies; that of the Hungarian Jews, who were among the last to be rounded up by the Nazis and taken to the camps. Five survivors, all now resident in the US, return to the scenes of their suffering and relate their experiences of war, their words intercut with original footage. Sadly, this is inadequately captioned; the images are chosen for their immediate visceral impact, and the origins of the scraps

Historical record or kneejerk sympathyiz The Last Days

of film is not specified. This, combined with the insistent rousing music that accompanies virtually the

entire film, leaves director James Moll open to accusations of emotional manipulation; is his intention to create a historical record, or simply to stimulate kneejerk sympathy?

These reservations do not lessen the impact of the story told by The Last Days; but it is unfortunate that the film's most productive and interesting findings are permitted to slip by all too quickly. The confrontation between a survivor and the Nazi doctor who conducted experiments upon her sister in Auschwitz, the questioning of that doctor, and the troubled memories

of one survivor who betrayed a friend to the Nazis -

these are the tricky moments that preclude easy sentimentality. If the Holocaust is to remain vital and real to us, rather than becoming another easily digestible icon of 20th century horror, it must remain troublesome, awkward and uneasy, and never be allowed to dissolve into the soft-focus sadness that Moll occasionally skirts. As one of the survivors notes. the war may be long over but the last days are yet to come. (Hannah McGill)

I Selected release from Fri 15 Oct.

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American Pie (15) 136 mins irhk

The latest in 1999's bumper crop of teenage comedies, American Pie turns out to be a surprisingly sweet—natured account of adolescent sexual frustration. lts influences include the likes of Porky’s, Animal House et al and the Farrelly brothers’ films (hence one character accidentally imbibes a beer glass containing semen, whilst another individual is stricken after a dose of laxatives). There's even a nod to The Graduate in the climactic party scene.

Jerk off: Jason Biggs and Eugene Levy in American Pie

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The plot is straight forward enough. Jim (Jason Biggs), a Michigan high school student, desperately wants to

get laid. And so do his equally horny“

pals Oz (Election’s Chris Klein), Kevin and Finch. So they give themselves a deadline to lose their virginity; Prom night in three weeks time. But when Jim is caught by his dad in flagrante with mom's apple pie, his prospects in the contest look bleak.

Directed by Paul and Chris Weitz (the writers of Antz), American Pie captures something of the horrors of the male

teenage experience, not least the cringeworthy sex education ’lessons' from fathers (here Eugene Levy) and the Oedipal lusting after friends' mothers. Yet unlike Porky’s screenwriter Adam Herz includes female characters who are more than passive objects of desire, and who seem far more clued up and in control than their male counterparts. There’s Natasha Lyonne's worldly-wise Jessica, Alyson Hannigan’s seemingly nerdy flautist Michelle and Mena Suvari's choir-girl who wins the heart of Chris Klein's sports jock. And in a moment of gender role-reversal in the live Internet broadcast scene, it's the gorgeous Czech exchange student (Shannon Elizabeth) who forces the hapless Jim into a humiliating striptease.

The performances of the youthful cast are only amiable rather than scintillating, _yet what really disappoints is American Pie's ultimate conventionality, particularly the way its characters have to be seen' to learn from their experiences. Entertaining but hardly in the comic league of Dumb And Dumber and There’s Something About Mary. (Tom Dawson) I General release from Fri 8 Oct.

new releases FILM

Gregory‘s Two Girls (1S)104 mins *hfi

Ironically, it was the prospect of Gregory Underwood being plastered all over the TV screen for thirteen weeks that prompted Bill Forsyth to pen the sequel to his hit 1979 film Gregory’s Girl. Approached by the original film's producers, who were planning a TV series, Forsyth gave the project his blessing along with one idea: that eighteen years on Gregory remained in his Cumbernauld hometown, now a teacher at his old school. As Forsyth developed that seed of an idea, the series became a second feature film.

According to Forsyth, with John Gordon-Sinclair on board again there was little effort required to work out exactly what the older Gregory would be like. And that's not hard to believe, on the evidence of Gordon-Sinclair's two superb performances. Gregory version 2.0 is as endearing as he ever was, but a little more complex: still the awkward, immature boy of 1979, but also a wiser, more self-assured man in 1999. Of course, the adult traits are well-hidden beneath a layer of unselfconscious geekyness, which provides much of the new film's humour. In the classroom, for example, Gregory’s pupils have to remind him he's their English teacher when he spirals off on some philosophical rant bemoaning the state of the world.

Forsyth cleverly develops the film's two plot strands to play on Gregory's overriding character traits: emotional immaturity and innocence. In one Gregory avoids the attentions of fellow teacher Maria Doyle Kennedy while fantasising about schoolgirl Carly McKinnon; in the other he is reacquainted with old school pal Fraser Rowan (played with Devilish charm by Dougray Scott), an entrepreneur involved in highly unethical business dealings.

All this plot is somewhat intrusive - the characters alone were enough in the first film - and a bit too contrived come the climactic car chase. Still, the strong supporting cast, Forsyth's cheeky humour and Gordon-Sinclair's second sublime turn as Gregory are worthy of the original film.

(Miles Fielder) I General release from Fri 15 Oct. See previews.

School's out: Carly McKinnon and John Gordon-Sinclair in Gregory's TWO Girls

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7-21 Oct 1999 "IE I18" 21