FILM new releases
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Clever, ironic. humorous and with a phenomenal ensemble cast
Cradle Will Rock
(15) 134 mins hunt
New York City, 1936. In the midst of the Depression a government- sponsored project strives to find work for performers and bring theatre to the unemployed masses. Meanwhile, communist paranoia grips the state while the nation's captains of industry do business with Germany, which will soon go to war in Europe. Against this background Orson Welles and producer John Houseman attempt to stage Marc Blitzstein’s socialist musical, The Cradle Will Rock.
Mixing fictional characters (such as Bill Murray's depressed puppeteer) with historical personages (John Cusack’s Nelson Rockefeller), writer/director Tim Robbins builds a portrait of a tumultuous period of American histOry through a series of overlapping personal dramas. These are drawn
together in a climax in which Welles'
cast risk all to perform Blitzstein’s play, by then banned in a round of pre- McCarthy witch hunts.
Robbins’ third outing as director is a hugely ambitious, sprawling period piece celebrating artistic creativity. Clever, ironic, humorous and with a phenomenal ensemble cast -- including Angus Macfadyen, Susan Sarandon, Vanessa Redgrave, Joan Cusack, John Turturro — it owes a debt to Robert
| i l
Janice Beard: 45 WPM
(15) 81 mins *‘k‘kir
' Here’s an odd coincidence that’s
strangely symmetrical: just a couple of months after Tom Courtenay returned
to the big screen, after a long
theatrical hiatus, with the terrible
Altman who directed Robbins in Short
Cuts and The Player. In fact, the complicated opening shot, which tracks Emily Watson’s homeless
aspiring actress from her temporary ;
sleeping quarters behind a cinema screen out into the teeming streets, outdoes Altman’s lengthy take in The Player, which paid homage to another famous tracking shot in Touch of Evil, directed by none other than Orson Welles. (Miles Fielder)
I Selected release from Fri 5 May See
Jarmusch should stick to making films about ageing rockers
Ghost Dog (15) 116 mins bit
It may soon be time for one of those Reputations documentary investigations into Jim Jarmusch; his has been built on a couple of offbeat efforts some time ago, punctuated by rescue attempts that have succeeded only in boring audiences through their wilful angularity. In the director’s latest foray into nowhere, Ghost Dog sees the wildly over-rated Forest Whitaker attempting to convince us that he is the holder of some ancient Eastern belief system that helps him get through life as a professional killer unscathed. He is also aided by warm- hearted mafioso, Louie (John Tormey). But when a hit goes wrong, the mob is after Ghost Dog and Louie is caught between loyalties. It’s all as off-key as
28 THE UST 27 Apr—ll May 2000
the ice-cream van chimes of Ghost Dog’s French pal, Raymond.
Among the film’s many flaws is Ghost Dog’s alleged ability to float through
Whatever Happened to Harold Smith .7, Eileen Walsh makes her film acting debut with the wonderful Janice Beard: 45 WPM, in which she plays the lead character who is as
Newcomer Walsh is simply astonishing
incorrigible a fibber as Courtenay was in his own film debut, Bil/y Liar. After Janice's dad dies of a heart attack during her birth, her Scottish mum sinks ' into ’post-natal, post-mortem depression’. Having unsuccessfully spent her childhood attempting to cure her mother of a related illness, agoraphobia, with fantastic flights of fancy, the by now habitual liar sets off for London to find mum a medical cure. There she lands a job in the typing pool of a car firm where she L immediately clashes with secretarial prima donna Julia (Patsy Kensit) and befriends scuzzy office boy Sean (Rhys lfans). , Further plot convolutions, involving industrial sabotage, fall short of the often ; hilarious character comedy, but do not undermine the entertaining principal ' performances in director/co-writer Clare Kilner’s debut. In the lead, newcomer ' Walsh — whom you might remember from her Fringe hit, Disco Pigs — is simply astonishing; her goofy, endearing Janice distinguishes the film from lesser Brit comedies. (Miles Fielder) I Selected release from Fri 5 May. See Front/mes.
Sex: The Annabel ' Chong Story
(18) 86 mins * t *
Chong became an international sensation by orchestrating the inaugural ’World’s Biggest Gang Bang'. Already feted as
the first woman to perform triple
penetration on screen, the session in which she slept with 251 men in ten hours provided her with Andy
Warhol’s fifteen minutes of fame with
an appearance on The Jerry Springer
“‘ : Show.
The sex feat also attracted the
She slept with 251 men in ten hours
attention of Gough Lewis who spent the next year filming Chong as she came to terms with overnight celebrity status. The documentary is split into two parts; the first is a wham-bam-thank-you-mam guide to the porn industry in which everybody seems to be having fun making sex films. This mood is in total contrast 5 to the second and most powerful aspect of the film, which shows the repercussions faced by Annabel Chong. She is ripped off by producers, while fame forces her to reveal the truth about this double life to her mother. Ultimately, the documentary is a truly depressing picture of the human condition in which even Annabel Chong is not afforded the luxury of a sympathetic light. Q Yet despite the depressing tone, it is impossible not to be enthralled by the performer known as Annabel Chong. (Kaleem Aftab) E I Edinburgh: Fi/mhouse from Fri 5 May. See feature, page 74.
Of Freaks And Men
(18) 93 mins *irirt it
Although director Alexei Balabanov is at the forefront of ’New Russian Cinema’, it’s fair to say that, until now, his filmmaking has made scant impact
; on British shores. This will no doubt be
rectified by this bizarre and stunning
tale of fantasy and eroticism set in
the city unnoticed. Maybe the mob 5
couldn’t find Shergar in an Irish sea of horses heads, yet everyone in Ghost Dog’s neighbourhood appears to be on nodding terms with the mystical one. And it’s taken the radical auteur an awful long time to miss the particular boat of sending up the mob. Even the risible Analyze This was funnier than Jarmusch’s shambles. Jarmusch should
probably stick to making throwaway i
movies about ageing rockers, Helsinki cabbies and Japanese Elvis fans instead of attempt the grand spiritual narrative. (Brian Donaldson)
I Selected release from Fri 5 May. See preview.
turn of the century St Petersburg. A homage to early cinema in its use of silent film plot aids and sepia—tinted
g“ new; , 3.: a, _'
Part absurdist farce, part surreal fetishistic nightmare
monochrome cinematography, the story follows the predatory exploits of Johann (Sergei Makovetsky), a fiendish purveyor of early pornography. With the aid of his grinning idiot henchman, Victor (Victor Sukhorukov), the porn ring widens to engulf the lives of two noble families, exposing the humOrous and startling underbelly of depravity beneath the austere trappings of the Russian bourgeoisie. Adopted Mongolian conjoined twins Kolja and Tolja (Chingiz Tsydendabayev and ; Alyesha De) are ’the freaks’, who, along with the. delicate and innocent Lisa (Dinara Drukarova), are forced to become subjects for Johann’s short erotic films. Compelling in both its subject matter and its stunning visual compositions, Balabanov’s film is part absurdist farce, part surreal fetishistic nightmare. Aside from the menacing leads, there’s a host of eccentric periphery characters and if you like y0ur comedy dark, this is positively charcoal. (Catherine Bromley) I Glasgow: GFT from Fri 5 May Balabanov’s Kafkaesque debut, Happy Days,
plays at the GFT, Tue 9 May.