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Joan 0f Arc (15) 148 mins uh it it

At the turn of the 21st Century, Joan of Arc, medieval warrior, Catholic saint and icon of French nationalism, has been enlisted to fight another battle. As the heroine of Luc Besson's patriotic epic and would-be international blockbuster, she has become the standard bearer of a valiant endeavour to repel the forces of Anglo-American cultural imperialism. But many will feel that Besson has sold the pass. Made with English dialogue, his movie has far more in common with the gory spectacle of Mel Gibson's Braveheart than with his fellow countrymen Robert Bresson or Jacques Rivette's austere versions of the legend.

Besson's film has three parts: Joan's childhood; military career; imprisonment and trial. The first section is by far the weakest. The infant Joan trips through the countryside around her peasant village to the accompaniment of Eric Serra's syrupy score as though she had strayed from The Sound Of Music. A few years later, the seventeen-year—old Joan (played by Besson's now estranged wife Milla Jovovich) arrives at the court of the weak, vacillating Dauphin (John Malkovich),

' ~ -‘ at?

Warrior maiden:

Milla Jovovich in Joan Of Arc claiming that she has been told by God to drive the English from France and crown him king. If the Dauphin or his ruthless mother (Faye Dunaway) had been witness to Joan’s divine visions (which look like MTV- style acid trips) they might have thought twice, but she is soon leading the sceptical French army to relieve the siege of Orleans. It is here that both Jovovich and the film are at their best. With her high cheekbones, cropped blonde hair and skinny, androgynous build, Jovovich makes a striking warrior maiden. She is a compelling mixture of weakness and strength: trembling and breathless, almost hyper-ventilating as she addresses her troops, but at the same time, clearly driven by an unshakeable inner conviction.

But Joan's visionary certainty crumbles after she is betrayed and captured. Imprisoned and awaiting trial, she is visited in her prison cell by the cowled figure of Dustin Hoffman, representing Joan's Conscience, who undermines her belief in her crusade. This misguided sequence does Jovovich no favours, but it cannot efface the impact of the film's central battle scenes nor the image of the armour-clad Joan in the midst of the carnage. (Jason Best)

I Selected release from Fri 70 March. See Front/mes.

interviewed Wigand, but a corporate deCision killed the segment.

Taking their cue from Marie Brenner’s article for Vanity Fair, 'The Man Who Knew Too Much', Mann and co—writer Eric Roth have dramatised the events. But Mann presents them in factual documentary style so that a sense of the utmost seriousness presides at all times, both in regard to Wigand's personal dilemma and the enormity of the industry scandal. Not since All The President’s Men has fact and drama

Whistleblowers: Al Pacino and Russell Crowe in The Insider

merged so powerfully on screen.

The Insider (15) 157 mins * *** at

Michael Mann's previous film, Heat,

boasted some electrifying set pieces:

the opening hljaCk and the extended shoot Out on the streets of Los

Angeles. Similarly electrifying, The

Insider contains Virtually no ’action’

whatsoever. Yet, there's a terrific sense of dramatic urgency that drives the film through its lengthy running time.

It all started in the mid-905 with

- Jeffrey Wigand. A research scientist

and corporate officer for the American tobacco firm, Brown & Williamson, Wigand blew the whistle on the

24 THE “ST 2 l6 Mar 2000

industry, which he accused not only of manipulating nicotine levels in cigarettes to hook users, but lying, under oath, in court, about the drug’s addictive quality. Wigand became the central witness in a $246 million lawsuit, but not before being victimised by a smear campaign, divorced by his wife, sued and threatened with imprisonment in an effort to silence him. Closely involved with Wigand throughout this period was Lowell Bergman, investigative reporter and producer for the CBS news magazine institution, 60 Minutes, and its presenter Mike Wallace. Bergman and Wallace

Al Pacmo and Christopher Plummer, as Bergman and Wallace, respectively provide the film’s backbone with flawless performances. Diane Venora is good in the thankless role of Wigand's wife, but it’s Russell Crowe as Wigand who really impresses. The young Antipodean actor’s transformation from Romper Stomper’s racist skinhead and IA C()Iifl(/FP/Tfla/'S thuggish cop to a 53—year—old balding fat man, broken but decent With the weight of the world on his shoulders, is simply astonishing. He’s deserves the Oscar he’s been nominated for. (Miles Fielder) I Selected release from Fri 10 Mar. See feature, page 70.

Three Kings

(15) 114 mins *****

It's March 1991, the Gulf War is over and in the Iraqi desert US soldiers who -

have seen no action whatsoever, and

don’t even understand what the war is about, wait to be sent home. Within

this fragile environment four soldiers

. are drawn together by a map found up 3 an Iraqi P.O.W.'s arse showing where ; Saddam Hussein has hidden stolen

Kuwaiti gold. The four hapless losers set off for what they think is half a day’s easy looting, but this of course soon turns into a series of mindblowing and gut-ripping events.

A masterpiece of inhumanity, David O Russell’s remarkable third film shares similarities with great anti-war films ; such as M*A *S*H and Catch 22, but it also pushes the political envelope far further than them. This film begs some of the most pertinent political questions ever asked in an American movie it’s amazing it got passed congress. Why did George Bush encourage the Iraqi civilians to rise up against Hussein, promising help and then Withdrawmg his troops and let them be massacred? What were US soldiers doing in Iraq training up the army before the war? And what the hell was actually achieved, apart from the safe guarding of a few oil fields on the Kuwaiti side?

Russell’s witty script and super sharp direction captures the futility of the situation that’s a million miles away from his previous films, Spanking The Monkey, and Flirting With Disaster. And the whole thing is beautifully shot in bleached out vistas by The Usual Suspects’ cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel. George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube and Spike Jonze play the befuddled soldiers at the heart of the film; ensemble acting this good : you won't see this side of a new John Sayles or P.T. Anderson movie. Three Kings is probably the only thing that has a chance of keeping George Bush

Jr out of the White House. (Paul Dale)

I General release from Fri 3 Mar. See feature, page 8.

George Clooney in Three Kings

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t a: it it it Unmissable t it * * Very ood ' * 1k 1k Wort a shot * * Below average | l * You've been warned