RFTROSPI: (3T M ROMAN POLANSKI
Polanski’s Tess starring Nastassja Kinski and Peter Firth
Miles Fielder looks at how, from Knife in the Water to Repulsion and beyond, the Polish emigre translated
tragedy into great cinema.
Roman Polanski once said, ‘Whenever I get happy, I always have a terrible feeling.’ That’s a good way to describe the aesthetic of his cinema, which is united by themes of disaffection and victimisation, and which are often blackly comic. Think of the bizarre image of Donald Pleasance in the brilliantly delirious CuI-de-Sac (1966), enticed to dress in drag by his wayward wife, Francoise Dorléac, and ridiculed by Lionel Stander’s crook, who has forced his way into the couple’s idyllic home. It’s funny and horrible.
As is the infamous nose-slicing scene in Chinatown, in which Polanski delivers the coup de grace to nosy Pl Jack Nicholson. Polanski gave himself the titular role in his next and less often seen film, The Tenant (1976), in which he is possessed by the spirit of an old woman and, yep, ends up in drag.
Humorous or not, Polanski’s films are all tragedies. Given the nature of his life, that’s not surprising. During WWII, his parents were interned in concentration camps, where his mother died. As a child, he roamed the Polish countryside, living with various families - an experience he put on film with his Oscar- winning The Pianist (2002). Following the murder of his pregnant wife, the actress Sharon Tate, by Charles Manson’s followers, Polanski (who, some, cruel commentators suggested, pre-empted the slaughter by making the devil worship thriller, Rosemary’s Baby, in 1968), made Macbeth (1971), cinema’s most
bloodthirsty version of the play.
If that was a product of grief, Polanski attained grace with his last film of the 19705, Tess (1979), a beautiful, melancholic adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s novel and Tate’s favourite book. By this time, Polanski, who had been convicted of statutory rape and forced to flee America, was back living in Europe. Some argue he lost his touch after Tess, but while Pirates (made in 1986, after a seven year hiatus) is a glorious mess, and the supernatural thriller, The Ninth Gate (1999), badly misjudged, his B-movie homage, Frantic (1988), and his perverse erotic drama, Bitter Moon (1992), are on par with his early work.
I A new print of Cl‘i'iatown is playing a! the GFI'. Glasgow from Sat 29 May to Wed 2 Jun. The Polanski Retrospective starts a! the Film/rouse. Edinburgh from Frr 4 Jun.
FANTASY ADAPTATION HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN
(PG) 141 min .0.
It is the suiitrner before Hariys third year at Hogwarts. and he has just hearo that SIF’IIS Black Gary Oldman is a prisoner at A/kal)an. What llarry rloesr": suspect is that Black has escaped and is coming after Illll‘.
Exoectatioi‘s are r.d'ng high for Harry Potter and fire l~’r'iso/rer of A/k.’il)(ir‘. with a 'I(E‘.'.’ director in Alfonso Cuaron W to lira/ha lamb/er). Gro‘r.‘ Expectations). and a darker. complex book third time around to try Eiflfl cinematically navigate. But Charon. a superb filmn‘iaker. still ‘ails to captivate his audience. I‘Ei‘.’ll‘z-§) crafted a film that is at times. painstakingly slow and bordering o". tedzum. l or fans of the books and the previous two films ltou'ieve" ".ou should maybe Check for l()l)()°.()ll‘y 'narks now children). there :s enough dark humor. spectas.i:ar e‘fects and
You are bigger and better than this Alfonso Cuarén
appealing performances to keep you trapped in the franchise. For Harry Potter 3 is indeed Visually impressive and features two scene-stealing performances from the irresistible Emma Thompson ias Professor Sybil Trelav.iney and the magnificent Michael Gambon ias Alhus Dumbledorei. The trouble is that the new Sinister maturity that belies Harry's new adventure barely allows the film to work as a stand alone pro)ect in its
own right. Regular Potter screenwriter Steven Kloves' confusmg, rambling. structurally incoherent script. in which characters appear and disappear and plot turns are never realised keeps the door firmly closed on this private club.
Cuarons leap back into the US mainstream lacks more than it ultimately delivers. (Paul Fischer) I General release from Mon 31 May.
FESTIVAL ROUND UP LONDON LESBIAN AND GAY FILM FESTIVAL ON TOUR
LLGFF programmer Selina Robertson picks her faves from this year's line-up.
Ever since its genesis in 1992. the London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival on Tour has been an annual event for the canny regional cinemas that take it on; last year's record high attendance reacheleDOO. And at a time when gay assimilation is very much a point of discussion. culturally and politically. it is more important than ever for audiences to be able to see and engage with contemporary queer cinema made by LGBT (lesbian. gay. bisexual and transgender) filmmakers themselves. This year's offering showcases the range and breadth of the LLGFF. with the inclusion of The Event (opening night film. Edinburgh). a glossy. teary AIDS drama starring Olympia Dukakis and Parker Posey: Robin ’3 Hood (opening night film. Glasgow, closing night film Edinburgh) a gritty urban sexy drama: and finally Eating Out (boys
centrepiece gala). a US indie that really delivers on a sexy. funny script. Girls and boys shOuId definitely apply — oh. and fans of John Waters too.
As for the Brits. the tour marks ten years since the death of Derek Jarman with a new print of his classic Caravaggio. If you like pills (Jack'n'Jills) then Twisted. a frenzied comment on gay club culture. is a must. There are little gems both in the Good Girls and Good Boys shorts packages. in particular All Over Brazil — a glam rock delight by local filmmaker David Andrew Ward and Guinevere Go Fish Turner's new sex comedy Hummer. And to tease your taste buds here's a sneak preview of Bruce LaBruce's latest offering, Rasperry Reich, which. unsurprisingly. is offensive. dirty and politically bent. ‘Heterosexuality is the opiate of the masses.‘ Bruce tells us, so chew on that while the queers come a marchin' in.
I GFT, Glasgow from Tue 8 Jun. Film/rouse, Edinburgh from Fri 7 7 Jun. See Gl-T and Film/rouse programmes for details.
27 May‘ If) Jun 2004 THE LIST 29