DRAMA Almost Famous (15) 123 mins *- a. s *- Writer-director Cameron Crowe's autobiographical re-view of America's 70$ rock scene is a look through rose-tinted shades. Here there are no casualties of excessive lifestyles, but then Almost Famous isn't an expose of the underbelly of rock ’n' roll, it’s a magical carpet ride that appropriates the most exhilarating elements of the scene and makes of them an enormously satisfying, often very funny drama that consistently hits the mark. Crowe's very personal film never takes the lazy cliched route, nor does it lapse into parody, which in these post-Spinal Tap days, is no mean feat.
What saves Almost Famous from going the way of the ‘rock dinosaurs' are the storytelling skills Crowe honed on previous films Jerry Maguire and Singles. He tells his story through the eyes of thinly-disguised alter-ego William Miller (cherubic newcomer Patrick Fugit), a fifteen-year-old kid turned onto rock music by his wayward sister (Zoeey Deschanel), despite the objections of protective mother (the ever-excellent Frances McDormand), and is subsequently tuned into rock journalism by legendary scribe Lester Bangs (the ever-excellent Philip Seymour Hoffman).
Thereafter, Miller scores an unlikely commission from Rolling Stone magazine, packs his cassette recorder and goes on tour with up-and-coming rock act Stillwater (Billy Crudup and Jason Lee leading a composite of various groups Crowe toured with including The Allman Brothers, Led Zeppelin and Lynyrd Skynyrd).
Rewind the eight track to 1973. As Bangs predicts, the times are a-changing. The rock business is recognising the commercial importance of media coverage. Though Miller continues to enjoy unparalleled access (by
Carry On-style bawdy romp
Exhilarating magic carpet ride with Patrick Fugit and Kate Hudson
today's standards) to his subjects, he’s already being manipulated by Stillwater (the irony of writing about this phenomenon will not be lost on arts journalists today). Nevertheless, and against all odds, Miller gets his story, not least because of the friendship he strikes up with 'band aid’ (more of a muse than a groupie) Penny Lane (the luminous Kate Hudson).
Crowe successfully evokes the excitement engendered in the musicians and fans alike by this music, as well as the crazy carnival atmosphere of a band on tour. If any further endorsement were needed, the surviving members of Led Zep loved Crowe’s film so much they granted him the first ever use of their songs on a film soundtrack. Be warned: there will be air guitarists at a cinema near you.
(Miles Fielder) is General release from Fri 9 Feb.
and not merely in de Sade's fevered imagination
Leading up to this disturbing climax we find the obscene aristocrat survrvrng the French Revolution's bloody Reign of Terror to be confined Within the walls of Charenton Asylum. There, his writing is indulged by saintly but naive Abbe Coulmier lloaguin Phoenixi, who believes the guill to be therapeutic, unaware that the pornographic writings are being smuggled Out of Charenton by Madeleine and published, much to the chagrin of Napoleon The Emperor promptly dispatches strait-laced Dr
(18) 124 mins ~-'« + a
At times Our/ls, Philip Kaufman's entertaining version of DOuglas Wright’s stageplay about the Marquis de Sade, seems haunted by the saucy spirits of Sid James, Kenneth Williams et all. Carry On De Sade anyone7 Take the scene in which Geoffrey Rush's Marquis tantalises Kate Winslet's buxom maid Madeleine, With pages from his gloriously filthy new novel, Justine, his chosen method of seduction is Iude innuendo
lt's surprising, yet not, that Our/ls should contain scenes of such campery Kaufman is known for his sensual, cerebral sex films his adaptation of Milan Kundera's novel The Unbearable tightness Of Berng and the story of Henry Miller and Anais Nin rn Henry And lune But, of course, de Sade's fiction is infamous for its still shocking sexual content Lines lifted from h:s writing, or reworked by Wright for the film are of the ’he roughly pierced her wmcing flower’ variety. But (or is that butt?) by the third act, Our/l5 has taken a dark turn Here, the film spirals into a nightmare of rape, torture and murder,
Royer-Collard «Michael Cainei to ’cure’ de Sade With methods that w0uldn't be unfamiliar to members of the Spanish Inquisition What follows is an amusmg clash of wills with steadily more serious repercussions
It’s de Sade made digestible, not historical, but Our/ls works as a bawdy romp in the same way that Shakespeare In Love worked as a vaguely biographical film The cast is uniformly f’ine, and Rush let loose to 'chew the scenery' is utterly engrossing iMiles Fielderl a; General release from Fri 2 Feb See feature
new releases Fll M
Remember The Titans (PG) 113 mins t at *
Seems iike eters time Denrel \“vashington makes a film its got 'Oscar' mitten all over it He's played worthy figures from African American history that have secured him three nominations and one \Nll) Steve Biko in Cry Freedom, l\’fd/(L)r’l77 ,X, the runaway sla\e in G/orj rthe award- vcinner'l and Rubin Carter in The Hurrrcane In Remember The Titans \‘Vashington plays another \xor'thy hero, football coach Herman Boone, but though Boone is a real person he hasn't been eulogised until now Alexandria, Virginia, 1971 The local school board forces a black school and a white school to integrate Unsuiprisingly for such a racially volatile state, this doesn't go down well \Vllll folks The already unstable situation reaches boiling point when the board replaces T C. Williams High Titans' white football coach Bill Yoast (Will Pattoni With black coach Boone IWashingtoiit, a political move designed to further the course of integration
Though initially wary of each other, local man Yoast and his new boss from South Carolina find they have more than football in common As they work to transform their unfocused players into a Winning team, the hard-nosed men come to respect each other, something which proves to be the basis for a lifelong friendship LikeWise, the Titans’ mixed race team members come to respect one another And thus, this awkward pairing of two unassuming men in Alexandria can be credited wrth advancing integration Washington's good as ever in this heavyweight role, but he’s not playing alone, Patton plays Yoast as the perfect foil to Boone Where the latter is stubborn, unforgivmg and bristling With barely suppressed anger, the former is easy-going and accommodating But one man has had to tolerate racial prejudice, the other hasn’t had to concern himself With it. Boone and Yoast’s relationship forms the core of the film, and it's Washington and Patton's scenes together that work best The rising fortunes of the football team and the games themselves are less captivating, but director Boaz Yakin holds the film together like a good coach does his team (Miles Fielder) I General release from Frr 9 Feb.
Another Oscar worthy role for Denzel Washington
t t t t * Unmissable
1» t t it Very 00d
1 i: t Wort a shot
* * Below average
* You’ve been warned A
l—lS Feb 2001 THE HST 29