MYSTERY Under Suspicion
(15) 111 mins it H Is it enough that two veteran actors
submit a pair of sturdy performances? Does It matter not that, confined Within a few interiors over a four hOur period, the drama Is highly theatrical? Is it a matter for concern that this film deVIates from both the original source novel and the first, French film adaptation?
Let us look at the eVIdence: exhibit A, John Wainwright's 1979 novel about the Interrogation by two policemen of a man suspected of the rape and murder of three girls; exhibit 8, Claude Miller's no-nonsense 1981 film Garde a Vue; and exhibit C, the labOur-of-love remake executive produced by stars Gene Hackman and Morgan Freeman.
Director Stephen Hopkins — who has been guilty of a series of unremarkable
Bless The Child
(15) 110 mins is
The thing about the loony political right is that even when it was at its worst, It could be kind of funny In an earnest, dogmatic, Irony-bypass way. Chuck Russell's humourless essay In urban paranOIa, though, demonstrates that even this possible seam of light relief Is now exhausted.
Kim Basmger plays Maggie, a respectable career nurse, Visited after a long absence by her homeless Junkie sister (Angela Bettis), complete With an apparently autistic child. Sister disappears pretty qwckly, leavmg Maggie to bring up the child. By the time baby Cody (Holliston Coleman) Is six, there’s a crowd of moonie-like satanic cult followers abducting and killing children born on the day of her birth. Inevitably their leader Eric (Rufus
Melodramatic murder mystery
action mOVIes Including Blown Away, The Ghost And The Darkness and Lost In Space - attempts, unsuccessfully, to open out the story, which takes place during carnival time In San Sebastian, With a series of ill-adVIsed flashbacks. These serve merely to reiterate, Visually what has been discovered as the possible motives for murder of Hackman's prominent offICIal by Freeman’s Police Captain. Then there is the suspect’s Wife, as played by the beautiful Monica Bellucci, she Is young and sensual, a femme fatale where the novel’s original was an older, emotionally inhibited Victim.
What we have here, then, Is a watchable If melodramatic murder mystery, which undermines itself by Ironing out some of the original’s ambiguous elements. Court adIOurned. (Miles Fielder)
I General release from Fri 72 Jan.
Derivative, humourless horror hokum
Sewell), a complete Cult of a man, hooks up With Basmger’s absent sister and claims Cody back, for some fell purpose to do With the deVIl. Police Investigating the murders are helpless, largely because they're staggerineg dense, but an FBI agent (Jimmy Smits) arrives to help BaSInger in her fight against the druggie bottom-feeding cult followers and their affluent leader, The knee-Jerk phobias about the Jobless, homeless and unfortunate which lie Just beneath the text Is ObVIOUS and bOring, While the film borrows endlessly and unimaginatively from better, and less immediately political examples of its kind. Rosemary’s Baby and The Omen are obVIously part of the Cinematic museum raided for the purposes of this film, but they can't help. (Steve Cramer) I General release from Fri 5 Jan.
‘(PG) 117 mins * it it
Into The Arms Of Strangers: Stories Of The Kmdertransport
This diligently assembled dOCumentary from American directOr Mark Jonathan Harris chronicles a humanitarian reSCUG missIon that OCCurred during one of the darkest periods In 20th century history As a result of the brutal anti-Semitic perseciatioii H) the late I930s, the British government agreed that the United Kingdom sl‘Ould take in I0,000 unaccompanied JeWIsh children from central Europe Evacuated on special trains to England, the new arrivals settled down In completer unfaimiai Surroundings in the expectation that their biological parents would ioin them, only for war to erupt across the Continent
Made in co-operation With the WashingtOn Holocaust Museum, and narrated by Judi Dench, Into The Arms Of Strangers incorporates lengthy face-to-t'ace interVIews With various KindertranspOrt survivors, rescuers and foster-parents, aIOngside archival news footage and photographs and dramatic reconstructions At times the focus on personal testimonies means that a broader socio-political context gets glossed over — why, for example, was America so opposed to aiding refugees? Nevertheless, given the current climate of xenophonia, It’s timely that the pOIgnant stories and memories of an earlier generation of immigrants are expressed. The wonder is how these IndIVIduals overcame such appalling childhood traumas to lead productive adult lives (Tom Dawsoni I Selected release from Fri 5 Jan.
MARTIAL ARTS PERIOD DRAMA Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
(12) 120 mins Hui * *
Poignant Holocaust document
Jane Austen meets Bruce Lee in Ang ‘Sense And Sensibility” Lee's astonishing martial arts period drama. Adapted by Lee and regular collaborator James Schamus from the wuxia genre novels by Wang Du Lu, the action takes place in a fictionalised setting of early 19th century China known as Giang Hu, a world of her0ic warriors and deep philosophical values.
Lee seamlessly Interweaves the stories of two sets of lovers, one til‘l'OClLIIth (ASIan Superstars Michelle Yeoh and Chow Yun-Fat's veteran warriors‘, the other burning With youthful paSSIon (newcomers Zhang Ziyi’s aristocrat and Chang Chen’s bandit leader), and a revenge tale With a feminist tWIst concerning the master criminal Jade Fox (Cheng Pei Pei). Seamless, too, Is the mix of drama and action, here the performers stay in character during the fights And the fight scenes are groundbreaking. GraVIty defying, in fact, as the combatants in this fantasy world leap across rooftops and exchange blows In the canopy of a bamboo forest. As choreographed by expert Yuen Wo Ping (Drunken Master, The Matrix) and shot by ’flying photographer' Peter Pau, it’s exquisite and exhilarating
At once breathtaking and beautiful, Crouching Tiger's also a cinematic landmark: its fUSIon of the best elements from East and West Cinema has created something wholly new. It’ll be film of the year. (Miles Fielder)
I Selected release from Fri 5 Jan. See feature.
PERIOD DRAMA Les destinées
sentimentales (12) (180 mins) it i t it
OliVIer Assayas seems one of the most contemporary of French filmmakers: Cold Water, Irma Vep and Late August, Ear/y September all carefully capturing the psychic complexities and body language of modern liVing. Yet Cold Water was a 'period' film, set in the 70s, Irma Vep had a yen for recreating aspects of Silent Cinema, and Late August, Ear/y September suggested a titular nod towards Ozu
So the turn of the century Les destinées sentimentales needn‘t be seen as much of a departure, and yet there’s something else distinctively different about Assayas’s new film, With Charles Berling playing a character Whose actions vaCIllate rather than one whose thoughts remain Integral. Unlike the key characters In the other films, who stay true to an Ideal of love or creativity whatever the dangers to self-confidence or their very eXIstence, Berling’s Jean Barnery's more given to acting out his various Impulses, often to the detriment of others. Thus Barnery separates from his Wife (Isabelle Huppertl and devotes himself to God, and then gives up the cloth and his congregation after falling for Emmanuelle Beart.
Before the film's conclusion though, he'll commit to another life changer. The film explores this epic life lived however confusedly, rather than the intimIst rigour of earlier Assayas films With their shorter time spans and sparer narratives (Tony MCKibbin)
I Fi/mhouse, Edinburgh from Fri 5 Jan.
Exploration of an epic life
Slab—I8 Jan 200I THE “ST 39