It must be great to be Richard Curtis, the writer behind Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill and now the writer-director of Love Actually. He gets to write dialogue that would get him kicked out of any remedial scriptwriting course in the land while being feted as the saviour of British cinema.

On paper Love Actually sounds about as appealing as being forced to suck cola cubes while under going a full rectal examination, yet Curtis’ debut does exude the charm of the landed, comfortable and awfully smug which makes for a fairly painless couple of hours. Clearly unable to write a film about the things that really affect British people Curtis falls back on the big one: the arrow of Cupid, yes it is Love...actually.

Curtis sets out to prove the fairly anodyne point that love is actually all around us in all its many forms and to do this he indulges a huge cast and several different story strands. So we see a new bachelor (who else but Hugh Grant) fall in love with his own little Pygmalion project tea girl (having her moment at last - Martine McCutcheon). And then there is the story of the broken hearted writer (Colin Firth) who falls for his Eastern European cleaner. On top of this Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Keira Knightley, Andrew Lincoln, Liam Neeson and Laura Linney all pop up to play out their roles as either object of or giver of the sweet gift of love.

All of which is enough to drive most vaguely well-read adults to want to cover themselves in uncontaminated moose pheromone extract and throw themselves into an orgy pit of cavorting bodies and meaningless unprotected sex. Well, it would be if it were not for Bill Nighy who steps in

to save the day with a gurning comic turn as an ageing nihilistic rock God. One part Robert Plant and two parts John Otway, Mack and his manager (Gregor Fisher) stage a Christmas comeback with an ironically titled single called “Christmas is all Around Us’. Nighy’s swaggering Mack injects a sense of chaos and danger into what is for all intents and purposes an assault of military precision on our tear ducts.

Despite everything this is likeable if unchallenging entertainment, Curtis is keep on


When Cupid met stupid

the straight and narrow on his first directorial outing by the same production and crew who worked on the adaptations of his earlier scripts. The film does however feel truncated in some way despite its generous length, too many of the stories fizzle to a pointless conclusion without even fulfilling the basic scriptwriting tenets of exposition or characterisation. A director’s DVD cut is maybe in the wings . . . God forbid.

(Paul Date)

I General release from Fri 21 Nov.

GAY DRAMA MA VIE (15)102 min 000

Etienne (Jimmy TavareSi. a talented. 16-year-old ice-skater. uses a camcorder. a birthday present from his grandmother, to recOrd aspects of his everyday life in the provincial French city of Rouen. He films his practice seSSions at the local ice rink. his Widowed mother (Arianne Ascaride. the Robert GLiediguian regulari at home and at work. and his friend Ludo lLucas Bonnafait:. who enjoys boasting about his female sexual conquests. But why does Jimmy surreptitiously Video the handsome Laurent iJonathan Zaccai). his geography teacher and his mum's new boyfriend? And what does the teenager mean when he declares that this Wlll be his year of love? Co-written and directed by OIlVIOt Ducastel and Jacques

Virgins and video cameras

Martineau. the duo responsible for the road mowe Dre/e de Felix. Ma Vie places the technology of digital video at the very heart of its coming-of-age story. Over the course of the passmg seasons. Jimmy's world is seen through the lens of his own camera. his own technical profiCiency reflected in the film's increasmgly polished style. And although the youngster may aVOid articulating his feelings. the images he captures Suggest the awakening of his own deSire and the sense of antiCipation that informs adolescence. Ma Vie feels slightly rushed in its final stretch. with its clumsy (slightly sordid) plot dewce. Yet this doesn't entirely detract from an appealineg acted drama. with nev-icomer Tavares prowding a Winning central performance.

(Tom Dawsonl

I Filinliouse, Edinburgh from Fri 27 Nov.

DOCUMENTARY AILEEN (15) 89min 0...

DOCLimentary filmmaker and investigating irritant extraordinaire Nick Broomfield (Kurt and Courtney. Fetishes) has been here before. Twelve years ago he made Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer. which detailed the sad. exploitative tale of how America's most famous living female multiple murderer had been exploited for material gain. not only by her fundamentalist Christian mother and various girlfriends but also by the Florida state police department. Time would prove Florida to be a pit of corruption (this is. after all. the land of Senator Jeb Bush). but in Aileen. Broomfield returns to the story at the point when the clearly psychologically unwell Wuornos is about to be executed.

Broomfield finds himself in the odd position of being called as a witness in the final proceedings that lead to the death chamber. It is doubtful whether he would have returned to this story it he hadn't been subpoenaed. but thank God he did. While the first film displayed a rather pathetic world of starstruck greed merchants and fat dope smoking lawyers. its follow up poignantly displays several of the major flaws in the US death penalty system. This is one of the saddest films Broomfield and co-director (and wife) Joan Churchill have made. Unusually for Broomfield the interviewer. his on screen Columbo-esgue interruptions are kept to minimum. His pOIltt seems to be that a life lost to the state. even if it is that of a psychologically unwell serial killer. is undoubtedly murder.

Aileen Wuornos was exeCLited on October 9th 2002. (Paul Dale)

I Selected release from Fri 2/ Nov. See lnterwew. page 23.

Aileen: the life and death, of a serial killer