Film new releases

Hilarious mock-documentary about dog lovers



(12) 90 mins 0...

Best In Show is hilarious because it plays the humour straight. When mild- mannered menswear salesman Gerry Fleck (co-writer Eugene Levy who also played the excruciatingly embarrassing father in American Pie) says he has two left feet and it turns out he literally does have two left feet, there’s no pause for

laughter - this is comedy without the punchline, and it’s definitely the better for it.



(U) 90 mins 0...

Les G/aneurs is a peCuliar film. On the one hand it's a rather jOlly’ inSight into the lives of an unknown social grOup in Europe. 0n the other it's a profoundly depressmg dOCument of a medieval method of Survival that Ought not to eXist in 2 tst century Europe.

The titular gleaners are those people who SUbSlSt on the leftovers of SOCiety. ranging from the dying art of traditional gleaning. where the needy follow harvesters picking up discarded ears of corn or potatoes rejected by Supermarket chains' demands for homogenous products like latter-day Ruths. to the bang up to date. more familiar urban foragers who scan dustbins for discarded produce that has JUSI passed its sell-by date.

Agnes Varda joins her subjects on the glean arOund France. and paints an affectionate picture of the ingenious methods used to overcome hardship.

DOCUMENTARY DARK DAYS (15) 82 mins .00.

Peculiar and affectionate

lt is Vaida's Willingness to temporarily become one of her subjects that makes the film. as her participation in the act avoids the descent into voyeurism that often mars documentaries of this type. A cheerful. often Witty portrait of an unfortunately common practice. (Jack Mottiami

I Film/louse. Edinburgh from Sun I 7 Mar; GFT Glasgow from Tue l3 Mai.

Directed and co-written by and starring Christopher Guest (better known as Nigel Tufnel the rock guitarist whose amp goes up to eleven from This Is Spinal Tap), Best In Show adheres to the spoof documentary format of Tap. Only because dogs are not as inherently amusing as rock musicians is Best In Show not quite as funny as Spinal Tap (which is the funniest film ever made).

The largely improvised action revolves around a bunch of dog-loving oddballs (among them Michael McKean, aka Tap singer-songwriter David St. Hubbins) who dream of their canines winning the prestigious Mayflower Dog Show. Guest is careful not to ridicule his ‘dog people’ - the improv actors flesh them out enough so that they remain on the right side of stereotyped - but as the pressure mounts and tempers frazzle when Mayflower gets underway, their desperate determination to win hits a hysterical note. And throughout the show ex-pro sports commentator Buck Laughlin’s (Fred Willard) narration is priceless: ‘To think that in some countries they eat these dogs.’ (Miles Fielder) I GFT. Glasgow; Fi'lmhouse. Edinburgh from Fri 9 Mar. See feature, page 20.

THRILLER THE WATCHER (15) 97 mins 0.

l . J. Reaves’ masterclass in bad acting

Keanu Reeves agreed to a small cameo as a serial killer in this derivative movie as a fav0ur to director Joe Charbanic. who had made several pop promos for his rock band. Dog Star. But while co- stars James Spader and Marisa Tomei pulled over a million dollars apiece. Reeves got Screen Actors' Guild minimum and consequently phones in his performance. long-distance. Or, it may be that Reeves is just a really bad actor.

By contrast. Spader and Tomei. as a haunted ex-cop and his lonely shrink.

28 THE LIST 1—15 Mar 2001

add a human dimenSion to the hackneyed scenario. Based on the absurd premise that serial killers. whose obseSSion is With their Victims. also like to play cat-and-mouse with the cops. this has voyeuristic strangler Reeves following the burnt—out. migraine- afflicted Spader to Chicago. Reeves believes that they have a vitalising ‘yin and yang-type relationship 'We need each other. we define each other' so he sends Spader photos of his intended victims. twenty-four hours in advance. Spader takes the bait and cleans up his act. Tomei. meanwhile. unwittingly offers psychoanalytical solace to both cop and killer.

Veteran cinematographer Michael Chapman (Taxr Driver, The Fugitive) adds undeserved class to the Cityscapes and over-deSigned interiors. but Charbanic’s penchant for MTV-style flashbacks and shaky-cam killer's-point- of-VIew shots. merely induces headaches of its own. The more Marco Beltrami's Over-pitched score tries to Crank up the Suspense level. the more vapid. pointless and uneXCiting it all seems. (Nigel Floyd)

I General release from Fri 9 Mar.

Dark Days is an incredible achievement. Filmed over two years in the labyrinthine underground tunnels of New York City. uSing a crew comprised entirely of homeless people struggling to SurVive. it unquestionably marks a new standard of excellence and integrity in the dOCumentary format.

As y0u'd imagine it isn't all cozy campfire chats. We meet numerous members of the 'community'. who are all named and therefore given an identity. We see them gomg about the daily busmess of keeping their ramshackle homes in order a process that involves keeping out rats and crack heads: it's difficult to decide which is more unsavory and working the streets to recycle and sell—on rubbish. an act they refer to as ‘free enterprise' lsee also The Gleaners And I tQVIGW). Wise-ass humour like this is iuxtaposed with some very tragic anecdotes and it's a credit to first-time director Marc Singer that he maintains a respectful distance throughout.

A combination of skilful editing and good timing means that we also see the inhabitants destrOying their homes. leaVing the tunnel and being re-housed and rehabilitated overground. The film. therefore. achieves a cohesive whole and thanks in part to DJ Shadows superb soundtrack. gives dignity to a section of SOCiety preVIously denied it. (Catherine Bromleyl I Cameo, Edinburgh from Fri 9 March. See prevrew. page 26.

DRAMA CHOCOLAT (12) 121 mins .0

This is a prime example of the new breed of middlebrow international arthouse films. which are invariably garlanded at the Oscars. Directed by Lasse Hallstrom (The Cider House Rulesl. this feelgood fairytale relies on a calculatedly cosmopolitan cast and glossy production values to disgwse its lack of substance.

Adapted from Joanne Harris' novel. it unfolds ‘once upon a time' in a trangun French village where everyone helpfully speaks English and where sexy and unwed single mother Vianne (Juliette Binoche) opens up a chocolaterie during Lent. Her magical confections are soon having a liberating effect on various locals. including a battered wrfe (Lena Olin) and a non-conformist grandmother (Judi Dench). while Vianne herself is drawn to a laid-back Irish gypsy (Johnny Deppl. Her actions incur the wrath of the reigning count (Alfred Molina). who fears that the traditional order may be irrevocably damaged by this new- found indulgence in pleasure . . .

The formidable array of acting talent is under-utilised in this saccharine and simple- minded plea for tolerance. Life lessons for the characters are all too eaSily learnt. problems are miraculously solved. and the metaphorical message hammered home. Don't be fooled by the expenswe wrapping: this Choco/at is cloying rather than nourishing. (Tom Dawsom I GFI'. Glasgow; Fi/mhouse, Edinburgh from Fri 2 Mar. See feature, page 70.

Binoche’s life is too sweet