DEATHBED DRAMA THE BARBARIAN INVASIONS
(18) 99min 0...
Reuniting characters from his earlier satire. The Decline of the American Empire. French-Canadian \‘vriter- director Denys Arcand delivers a bitter-sweet drama which seeks both to acknowledge death and celebrate life. Fiftysomething academic and self- styled ‘sensual socialist' Remy (Remy Girardl now lies dying of cancer in an overcrowded Montreal hOSpital. At his bedside are his ex-wife. his estranged son sebastien (Stephane Rousseau). as well as various lovers. mistresses and devoted friends from the Left. Remy. however. wonders whether he has left any meaningful mark on the
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W ' _ 3 ‘- . x ' y- I . - , world. and whether. in an era of
' ‘ IA ‘ American hegemony. the future now belongs to smug arch-capitalists such as Sebastien?
(15) 130min .00
It is 1885 and down in the stark, isolated wilderness of the American Southwest Maggie (Cate Blanchett) is plying her trade as a healer to poor Mexicans and travelling folk. At home she runs a tight ship, her two daughters - Lilly (Evan Rachel Wood) and Dot (Jenna Boyd) - work the family smallholding under the tutelage of her live-in partner Brake (Aaron Eckhart). She has to - her father Jones (Tommy Lee Jones) abandoned her mother to go native (as in Indian) when she was a young girl.
Inevitany one day Maggie’s estranged father wanders back into her life. At ﬁrst she is hostile but Maggie soon realises she needs his help when Lilly is abducted by a murderous group of Apaches lead by Pesh-Chidin (Eric Schweig), a psychopathic killer with mystical powers.
And so begins a very familiar story. Yet this brutal, intelligent Western thriller is without a doubt director Ron A Beautiful Mind Howard’s ﬁnest ﬁlm in years. His closest touchstones are clearly John Ford’s The Searchers and Robert Aldrich’s brilliant 1972 horse opera Ulzana’s Raid - which is no bad thing. Howard strives for Ford and Aldrich’s muscular poetry while Ken Space Cowboys, Muppets in Space Kaufman’s clean, yet workmanlike script elucidates themes of greed, slavery, racial warfare and Apache myth.
In Blanchette and Jones the ﬁlm has a couple of remarkable leads. Both physically gifted, they are also able to deliver the most overly dramatic of lines with the conviction of weary and weirded-out dustbowl orphans. It is, however, the Inuit/German actor Schweig who electrifies the heart of the film. His villain is an acne-scarred, ultra violent magi, a half pint of walking, black, hellish evil.
The many strengths of this remarkably old-fashioned yarn (check out Salvatore Totino’s consummate intelligent cinematography), are ultimately unwound by the yawning indulgent length that Howard and Kaufman take to tell their redemptive tale. Still, for two thirds of its length, this is ludicrously and predictably satisfying.
Taking The Missing and Kevin Costner’s fascinating forthcoming Unforgiven-style new film Open Range into consideration, the prognosis for the modern western is healthy and stable but we may just be entering an endgame with some of the Old West received truths Karl May must be spinning in his Austrian oak cofﬁn. Winnetoo to you too! (Paul Dale)
I General release from Fri' 27 Feb.
Prenez garde des vieux amis avec les mains froides et les coeurs chauds
The targets for Arcand's acerbic humour in The Barbarian Invasvons are numerous — hospital bureaucracy. union corruption. the crumbling welfare state. the Roman Catholic Church. the dumbing down of Western societies. even Godard Maoist teiidencies (for getting in the way of Reiny's tryst with a Chinese woman). The importance of cinematic images in shaping our private fantasies is recognised. and there's an appealing ruefulness in the way the middle-aged characters look back on the belief systems they adopted to explain the world.
But the guardian angel figure of Nathalie (Marie-Josee Croze). who supplies Remy with herein to relieve his discomfort. remains problematic: her beauty and generosity seem
punctured experimental rock music troupe. this platoon of yellers is quite literally big in Japan. They fill art galleries and conference halls in Tokyo and Paris. all the time taking their regimented black Suited Orders from the spiky Sirvio.
What is really clever abOut Ronkainen's wonderful film is that he has clearly taken the decision to structure his film like a sonata. The opener — a man (SirVIOl walks across a vast. frozen wilderness in a tuxedo. a huge ship steams You make me wanna Shout! through the thick ice. stopping shOrt of the tiny man — is admittedly
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(15) 73min 00..
Mika Ronkainen's inspired. truly bonkers documentary feature about Finland's only shouting men's choir is something to behold. They call themselves the Screaming Men and they hail from the town of Oulu in the north of Finland. population
28 THE LIST 19 Feb—4 Mar 2004
100.000. They have a conductor called Petri Sirvio who. in between ruling his hairy choir with an iron rod. prevaricates on his busy lifestyle, his dominance over the group and the perversity of Engels- inflected lyrics like ‘Speeding up the adjustment of industry to reflect structural changes'.
Part performance art. part
a mild fortissimo. What follows is Surreal but always playful - we COuld call this the scherzo. The final scenes combine an adagio of moody introspection. With a dreamy (very Finnish) melancholia. A brilliant documentary — one of the finest you will see this year. (Paul Dale)
I Fi/mouse. Edinburgh from Fri 27 Feb.
entirely unaffected by her own drug addiction. And somehow The
Barbarian lnvasions feels overly
polished in its depiction of its protagonists final days — petit
bourgeoisie (iuips and Witticisms take
precedence over Reiny's pain. (Tom Dawson)
I Selected release from Fri 20 Feb. See interwew page 26.