DRAMA DISSECTION ELEPHANT (15) 81 min .00.
Twenty years ago Gus Van Sant’s remarkable, Parnassian, naturalistic take on the Columbine massacre would have been shoved into grindhouse cinema dives in the Tex Mex basin alongside other pseudo exploitation flicks like Survive! (about the Andes plane crash whose survivors resorted to cannabilism) and Guyana, Crime of the Century (about the Jonestown massacre). Van Sant’s film, on the other hand, received the Palme d’Or in what he himself declared to be possibly one of the worst line-ups he had ever seen at Cannes.
Van Sant is clearly working in the right era. He’s a gutsy director whose experiments in form and tone have often been marked by brilliance (To Die For, Gerry) and madness (Psycho). But it was his most successful - and least interesting - film, Good Will Hunting, that allowed him to experiment in the half light of his hero, Stanley Kubrick.
Elephant may not quite be Van Sant’s Clockwork Orange (though he has renamed one of the killers Alex) but it is a bold look at the mundanity of a school day, even one that leads to a hideous massacre. Van Sant uses a Rashomon-like chronological
method to examine exactly the same events three different times before allowing the random violence of the killers to unleash. For 80 odd minutes, he lets his DoP Harris Savide stroll, documentary-style, through a recreated small town high school with his steadicam catching glimpses, moments snatched randomly from the path to death.
As mundane as it is interesting, Elephant uses real school kids to play the victim and killer roles. Only the adults are played by actors. Van
A meditation played out at the miserable, confused pace of adolescence
Sant reduces everything into an act of thinking, a meditation played out at the miserable, confused pace of adolescence. The question of why the Trench Coat Mafia wanted to kill their classmates on that sunny day in 1999 is deliberately neither asked nor answered. But he does manage to skewer the cold reality of suburban neglect and modern youthful disenchantment. A major work. (Paul Dale)
I Selected release from Fri 30 Jan. See feature. page 12.
PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLER COLD CREEK MANOR (15) 118 min .00
Surprisingly. given Mike Figgis' recent expeririients with digital Video images and multi-layered narratives. this strarghtfonvard psychological thriller has more in common with his early genre movies. Stormy il/fonday and Internal Affairs. Less surprisineg Figgrs' sheer technical skill. together with his gift f >r getting the best from an ensemble of actors. allows him to wring more psychological tension and character involvement from Richard Jeffries' by-the-nuriibers scrip than it deserves.
Unsuccessfully rnrxrng the ‘horr‘e-invasion' plot of a movie like PaCilic Heights with the ovenyrought Gothic style of Cape Fear. this pitches the new owners of Cold Creek Manor — slick Manhattanite Cooper Tilson (Dennis Guard) and his career- woman wife Leah (Sharon Stonei. their pubescent daughter Kristen and young son Jesse ~ against local bad boy Dale Massie (Stephen Dorffi. Dale thinks the repossessed property still rightly belongs to him and his cruel. domineering father (Christopher Plurrtmeri. Dale's attempts to insinuate lllll‘SOlf into his old home. I y helping out as a handyman, gradually ratchet up the suspense. Then. suddenly. it's all snakes in the beds. dead animals in the S‘Nllllllllllg pool. and spooky talk about the local legend of the Devil's MOulll.
Figgis fleshes Out these daft histrionics with the emotional strains of Cooper and Leah's ri‘arrrage. Dale's unhealthy relationship with his sadistic father. and the divided loyalties of the local female sheriff. whose trailer-trash sister (Juliette L€\'.llSl is Dale's girlfriend. (Nigel Floydl I General release from Fri 30 Jan.
Snakes in the bed and spooky talk
24 THE LIST 9? Jai‘ 5; Feb 700/.
srouu COMEDY HELL SCARY MOVIE 3 (15) 84min .0
Not so scary money spinner
This the third instalment of piss poor horror rnovre parodies. The Scary Movre franchise originated as a spoof of Wes Craven's already camp Scream films. This time around Davrd Zucker has replaced Keenan Ivory Wayans in the director's chair. but those Wayans boys are still responsible for the script and, rather predictably. they have chosen to reincarnate four recent (very iconographic) movres as seiirce material.
So the American remake of Hideo Nakata's Ring. M Night Shyamalan's worst film Signs. M.’itrrx Reloaded and 8 Mile (interestingly a frlrn that fed into the cinematic tradition of the white man reclaiming crowns in real life lost to the black minority) depends entirely ()1) your knowledge of them. It is impossible to enjoy this movie's brief moments of interest (and there is no hope of followmg the plot) without any prior knowledge of them to fill in the gaping holes.
These four movres should have been easy to lampoon. but Scary lvlovre 3 stumbles and before things have really got underway it seeks refuge in tit jokes aimed squarely at prepubescent boys.
That said. Pamela Anderson sends herself up admirably. as does Queen Latifah and even our very own Simon Cowell (something of a stateside celebrity since hrs on screen bouts with Paula Abdul on A/rrer'icari ldo/i. The really scary thing about Scary Movre .3 rs that it managed to make over SIOOm at the US box office. There is no accounting for taste. (Kaleen Aftabl
I General release from F n 23 Jan.
SCI-Fl THRILLER PAYCHECK (12A) 118min O.
In the near future engineering genius Michael Jennings (Ben Affleck) is hired to complete a top secret project for a shady high-tech corporation run by old pal Rethrick (Aaron Eckhart). Following the completion of the ambitious. three-year job (the paycheck for which is 890m) Jennings' memories (including his romance with biologist Rachel — Uma Thurman) are erased as a security measure. Jennings subsequently discovers — PLOT SPOILER FOLLOWS! — he's been set up to take the blame for stealing a government secret.
Woo is me
All that might sound intriguing. but the protagonists remarkable hindsight negates any sense of Suspense in this scr-fr thriller - what danger Jennings finds himself in (pursued by the FBI. Rethrick's goons) merely plays Out in anticipation of the happy ending. The experience is akin to reading the last page of a novel first. which worked fine for Philip K Dick's 19:33 short story. but here proves to be a fatal flaw. Furthermore. Paycheck suffers from another charisma-free performance from Affleck and stupifyingly LlliiltSpll'Cd direction by John Woo. And would the former Asian action cinema auteur please ditch those sodding doves. (Miles Fielder) I Out now on general release.