The Children Of The Marshland (Les Enfants Du Marais)

(PG) 115 mins *in

No two ways about it, Jean (One Dead/y Summer, Elisa) Becker’s idyllic, 305 set tale has ’cinema du papa' stamped on every frame. Usually, Francois Truffaut’s term is used pejoratively, but here it very nearly feels like a compliment. Becker, a painstakingly slow filmmaker, assembles around him a great cast, a careful crew and in Sebastien Japrisot, a screenwriter who knows how to pull us into a nostalgic world.

Set in France’s thne-Alpes region where Riton (Jacques Villeret) and Garris (Jacques Gamblin) scrape a living any way they can, the story eschews narrative focus for a series of privileged moments, narrated by Riton’s daughter. In one sequence Eric

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Elegiac: The Children Of The Marshland

Cantona’s angry boxer gets to destroy a bar; in another Michel Serrault's once poor, but now wealthy townie shows Riton the best way to catch frogs. The film does occasionally threaten to develop plot. There's Garris's burgeoning relationship with a young maid, Isabelle Carré. There is also avenging Cantona who holds Riton responsible for the former's six month prison sentence after destroying the bar. But they’re half-developed and casually dealt with.

It is Becker’s unwillingness to resort to melodrama and heavy plotting that keeps the film on the level of memoir. The film's immediacy is always secondary to its elegiac tone, captured well by Andre Dussollier’s well-to-do dilettante who proclaims at various moments the importance of the relaxed life. (Tony McKibbin)

I Edinburgh Fi/mhouse from Fri 70 Dec.


Guest House Paradiso (15) 86 mins *

The television series Bottom crystallised the on-screen relationship between Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson; truly a comedy duo, they needed nothing except themselves, a few choice props and something to panic about to create some memorable laughs. The development of these characters to star in a feature length movie, however, was a far from wise decision.

Richie (Mayall) and Eddie (Edmondson) are the manager and bellboy, respectively, of the self- proclaimed worst hotel in Britain, where, amazingly, a fair few oddballs naively come to stay. Simon Pegg, Vincent Cassel and the woman from the Renault Clio ads, Helene Mahieu, all try to bed down for the night to

Nostril crazy after all these years: Rik and Ade in Guest House Paradiso

varying levels of success. The real trouble begins when Eddie cooks up some fish for everyone’s supper.

The banter which has developed between Mayall and Edmondson on TV is lost in an attempt to move along what little narrative there is. Their drawn-out slapstick set pieces no longer shock and have subsequently been usurped by Vic and Bob and their pan fighting sketches. Even what should have been a fine vomitous finale is predictable and over long by five minutes. Edmondson's direction is slack; the film stutters along with no peaks or troughs and the result is a set of ill-thought out sketches carelessly spliced together. Bottom was and still is, at points, funny, but this proves that the trick really is knowing when to stop. (Mark Robertson)

I General release from Fri 3 Dec.

new releases FILM

81/2 Women

(15) 120 mins hurt

After the death of his wife, ageing businessman Philip Emmenthal (John Standing in fine form) is persuaded by his son Storey (Matthew Delamere) to rekindle his sex life by taking a variety of lovers from the East and West. Bringing two (and a half) young women from Philip‘s gaming parlours in Kyoto, and engaging a further six European beauties, the two men turn his Geneva chateau into their own private bordello. But inevitably, with Vivian Wu, Toni Collette and Polly Walker among their number, the woman soon begin to exhaust the men’s appetites and their imaginations.

8’/2 Women is partly a tribute to the imagery of the films of Fellini, and also a laconic reassessment of male sexual fantasies post-AIDs. A self-conscious foray into more mainstream narrative filmmaking, it is still unmistakably Greenaway in, to oversimplify things, its themes of sex, death and numbers. This time, though, he acknowledges his filmic rather than his architectural and fine art heritage, and the images, while always striking and often exquisite, are deliberately more conventional. It has already roused passions and controversy through its portrayal of woman as sex objects, but in the end, as Greenaway puts it, they can easily outrun the men. (John MacKenzie)

I Cameo, Edinburgh from Fri 70 Dec. See feature.

Grieving: John Standing in 8V2 Women

Hap y, Texas

(12)9 mins fink

Happy, Texas, the film and its smalltown setting, does its darnest to live up to its name. Bar brawls and border disputes are for other towns, and once a year the town gets extra happy with a beauty pageant for girls. Into this crime-free haven roll Harry Sawyer (Jeremy Northam) and Wayne Wayne Wayne Jr. (Steve Zahn), a pair of escaped convicts. Down by law, the criminals pose as pageant directors and are horrified to discover not only do they have to mount the upcoming pageant, but must adopt the gay relationship that goes along With their temporary identities. Camp antics, embarrassing moments and general gender bending ensue, during which time the local sheriff, Chappy (William H, Macy) comes out to Sawyer.

It could have been less funny than a squashed armadillo and as PC as a KKK clan member, but thanks to lively central performances (also including llleana Douglas and Ally Walker) and a light touch from director/writer team Mark lllsley and Ed Stone, Happy, Texas jaunts along the same trail as Some Like lt Hot Happy/5 resolutely 'nice’ tone betrays its perhaps too modest ambitions, but Macy manages to mix pathos with parody, while Zahn easily earns his Sundance pl‘IYO for Comedic Performance. (Miles Fielder)

I Selected release from Fri 3 Dec. See preview.

Dancing queen: Steve Zahn in Happy, Texas

x k ‘4

Anywhere But Here

(12) 114 mins *‘ki'

Teenager Ann August (Natalie Portman) is embarrassed by her wild- at-heart her mother, Adele (Susan Sarandon). But when Adele dumps her husband and drags her daughter away from stable family life in Wisconsin to the bright lights of big city Los Angeles, embarrassment becomes hate. In LA, Ann is forced into an acting career by her mother, who meantime sets her sights on a rich doctor for her next marriage. Inevitably, life ain't easy for these new down and outs in Beverley Hills and so the rift between mother and daughter grows wider.

It sounds like the plot of a Joan Crawford melodrama, or better, the scathing ’abusive mother' biography/biopic about Crawford herself, Mommie Dearest. But although director Wayne Wang (Dim Sum, The Joy Luck Club, Smoke) confesses to a love of Hollywood melodrama, his own shot at the genre strips it down to its basics: raw emotion, moments of light relief and a pair of very accomplished lead performances. Sarandon pulls out all the stops as wacky mom without resorting to parody, while Portman, last seen being denied the opportunity to give a performance by George Lucas in The Phantom Menace, is astonishing; teenage anguish has rarely been so palpable on screen. (Miles Fielder)

I General release from Friday 3 Dec. See preview.

Family ties: Susan Sarandon and Natalie Portman in Anywhere But Here

2—16 Dec l999 THE “ST 23