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FILM:May 2014

With many twists BEFORE THE WINTER CHILL(cert.15 1 hr 43 mins.) gradually reveals itself to be more than the straightforward domestic drama that it at first appears to be.

Kristin Scott Thomas plays Lucie, the wife of a successful doctor, who believes she shares the perfect life with him. But her husband Paul (Daniel Auteuil), a neurosurgeon, becomes obsessed with a beautiful young woman who he meets in a café and who claims to be a former patient He sees the young woman, Lou (Leila Bekhti) everywhere he goes and when he starts to receive bouquets of flowers he suspects that Lou is keen on him.

Meanwhile Lucie confides her worries about her failing marital relationship to Paul's best friend, Gerard (Richard Berry). However she feels compelled to repel his advances, while Paul continues trying to find out who Lou is and what she is up to. And like much of the rest of the film, it is not clear what exactly her real life is. She is certainly not the student she professes to be.

By this time the film has developed into a tense thriller and we are as eager as Paul to discover what is going on. That we are never told the whole story is presumably what the director Philippe Claudel intends.

The movie is like a film by Michael Haneke (and Auteuil starred in Haneke's film Hidden), but not quite as expertly put together as the German director's. There are some well-shot scenes, however, particularly one where Auteuil searches for Lou and comes across a line of prostitutes lining the road looking for clients.

Scott Thomas starred in Claudel's excellent film, I've Loved You So Long as a woman newly released from prison. She puts in another intelligent performance here. Auteuil is also most convincing as her husband and the two work well together. In fact there are three main parts and newcomer Bekhti shows that she can not only hold her own but give us her own sense of mystery as she follows the doctor around.

There are, of course, a number of twists, most of which come as a surprise to the viewer. As with Haneke's films what you don't see in this movie is as important as what you do see.

TARZAN (cert. PG 1 hr. 32 mins.) is a real family film. This is not only for children but will appeal to parents and grandparents too.

The story shows us a bit of young Tarzan's back story - how his parents, John Greystoke and his wife, are killed in the jungle in Africa. They are searching for a strange meteorite site and their death is in itself mysterious. Their young son, JJ, who likes to be called Tarzan, is the only one to survive the plane crash. Left all alone, he is befriended by a gorilla who brings him up. Tarzan sees the apes as his new family and fits in with the way that they live.

We see the grown-up Tarzan (voiced by Kellan Lutz) leaping about the jungle. He meets Jane (voiced by Spencer Locke), who is on an expedition with her scientist father and the two become very friendly. Tarzan gradually learns about his past and with Jane's help sets about saving the jungle from the evil William Clayton (Trevor St John) who has taken over Greystoke Enterprises but only wants to enhance his own power.

Directed by Reinhardt Kloss the story is quite dramatic and the scenes between Jane and Tarzan border on the erotic, so the film is obviously not just aimed at children! It is out on 3D and 2D - your choice!

I liked it. In particular the more realistic animation style with Tarzan looking like a real boy and the apes having different expressions in their eyes.

Also recommended:

POMPEII (cert. 12A 1 hr. 40 mins.) is an out and out old fashioned disaster movie. Well made, the story is straightforward and the cast put across the somewhat trite dialogue with vigour.

Director Paul Anderson knows how to tell the story and uses his cast well. He also puts on tremendous set pieces and the whole screen reverberates with exciting action. The main characters are the slave Milo (Kit Harrington) who is taken from Londinium in AD 79 to Pompeii and made to fight as a gladiator. A noble woman (Emily Browning) becomes his defender and the two fall in love. Meanwhile all around them Vesuvius erupts, other gladiators rebel, the cruel Roman Senator Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland) who murdered Milo's parents, tries to kill Milo and …but go see and enjoy!

ADVANCED STYLE (1 hr. 15 mins.) is a most interesting documentary.

Telling the stories of seven older women from 62 to 95, who like to be fashionably attired we are shown their lives through a series of little interviews and seeing them at work and out in the street. Directed by Ari Seth Cohen and Lina Plioplyte, we might not agree with the women's emphasis on stylish clothes and appearance but we can only admire their enthusiasm for life itself.






Here is a round-up of what is new in the theatre:

The 1981 play by Julian Mitchell, ANOTHER COUNTRY is now revived at the Trafalgar Studios (until 21 June. Box office 0844 871 7632). This depiction of public school life, although seemingly not relevant to our present day living, has much to say about the upper classes feelings of entitlement to riches and power.

Will Attenborough and Rob Callender in 'Another Country' at Trafalgar Studios

Jeremy Herrin's production makes one forget the masterful first run. Some of the actors here are surely destined for greater roles. Bill Milner, who gave such a spellbinding acting debut in the film Son of Rambo, is very good in the small part of the put-upon Wharton, serving tea to the prefects.

This is a good production, directed with an understanding of the era and what the playwright is saying. The cast of fine young actors put across the well-written dialogue amazingly well.

The revival of Noel Coward's RELATIVE VALUES (Harold Pinter Theatre until 21 June. Box office 0844 871 76370) brings together a magnificent cast in a satirical look at the English class system. Written in 1951, Coward uses his biting wit to show that it is not just the ruling class that upholds this division of society system, the servants also want there to be two different tiers an us and them. The play does not examine what is happening in the way the American play Good People shows us how the lack of suitable opportunities can hold people back but this is always in a tongue-in-cheek manner. The maid is terrified that others will discover that her sister has now become one of the toffs, while the manservant expresses his dislike of upward social mobility.

Director Trevor Nunn approaches the play as pure farce and his cast perform it as such. Patricia Hodge is excellent as the Countess, a genuine snob while Carline Quentin shows the maid to perfection. There is not quite sufficient opportunity for Rory Bremner to show off his special talents. Leigh Zimmerman, looking more herself than in other roles she has played, is good, too, as Miranda, the English girl who is now the toast of Hollywood.

I find the expressed views on class not to my taste and this is not one of my favourite Coward plays. However, one can't fault the production or acting of the whole cast.

One of my favourite plays is A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE and the spectacular production at the Young Vic (until 7 June. Box Office 020 7922 2922) brings out all the power of Arthur Miller's play, written in 1955. Miller really knows the area in which the play takes place. Instead of the tenements it is set in a kind of boxing ring and the antagonists face each other as though about to have a real fight.

Most of it is in the dialogue, however, which shows how Eddie (Mark String) is over-fond of his niece, Catherine (Phoebe Fox), to the detriment of his marriage to Beatrice (Nicola Walker) and resents Catherine's involvement with a young Italian immigrant, Rodolpho (Luke Norris). Belgian director Ivo van Hove has interpreted the play in an entirely new way.

Phoebe Fox, Mark Strong and Nicola Walker in A View from the Bridge

The cast is outstanding with Strong's Eddie a revelation after his somewhat mediocre film parts. The play runs for two tense hours with no interval. This is one not to be missed.

And for a different kind of theatrical experience, which includes a meal, do try FAULTY TOWERS THE DINING EXPERIENCE. After pre drinks and ordering your wine, the audience is shown into the dining room and seated around tables. Actors playing the parts of Basil Fawlty, his wife Sybil and the Spanish waiter, Manuel, then serve dinner. But it is a meal with a difference. While the food is good enough, the emphasis here is on fun and laughter so Manuel is hit around by Basil and misunderstands the commands such as, "Roll on plate" so he puts the plate with the bread roll on the floor then somersaults over the plate. Sybil treats her husband like the idiot he is. Customers are involved in the action and anyone who enjoyed the TV series is sure to like this, including younger people (as on the night I went) who have watched the DVDs of the show.

Performances (until 31 August) at the Charing Cross Hotel, The Strand, London. Fridays to Sundays: Box office 0845 154 4145

All tickets include a 3-course meal and a 2-hour show.

And now two plays depicting people who are still alive. The first HANDBAGGED (Vaudeville Theatre until 2 August. Box office 0844 412 4633) follows our present Queen Elizabeth 11 (Marion Bailey) as she meets over the years with Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister (Stella Gonet). We then see the younger versions of the two (Lucy Robinson as Liz and Fenella Woolgar as Mags).

Moira Buffini's play has transferred from the Tricycle and is now enjoying a run in the West End.

It's really very funny and the four actresses are very much like the originals - particularly in voice and movement, although Gonet doesn't really look like Thatcher. Like some kind of comic double act, the pair are obviously very different and their political likes and dislikes come across clearly. The dialogue between the two is very telling - true or not. We also learn about the early life of Thatcher, such as her mother was the daughter of a cloakroom attendant. A number of important events are touched on including the miners' strike

Marion Bailey (older Queen) and Stella Gonet (older Margaret Thatcher) in Handbagged

Many of the lines are hilarious, "It turns out that Kenneth Kaunda was not so black as he's been painted" says Thatcher.

Two actors Jeff Rawle and Neet Mohan play all the male parts. Mohan is very funny as Kaunda. And Rawle makes an excellent Heseltine and then Murdoch.

It's good to have this very funny play now receiving the wider audience it deserves.

KING CHARLES 111 (Almeida Theatre, Islington, London until 31 May. Box office 020 7359 4404) is obviously set in the future and is about Prince Charles. It begins with the funeral of his mother, then Charles (Tim Pigott-Smith, who puts across Charles’s mannerisms in a very lifelike manner) is immediately faced with a crisis: he wants to refuse his assent to a bill restricting freedom of the press. The new King seems to forget that he is not allowed to impose his views on Parliament or indeed refuse Royal assent.

We see William and his wife Kate (admirably played by Oliver Chris and Lydia Wilson) trying to persuade William's father to do what Parliament decrees. Meanwhile a dishevelled Prince Harry (Richard Goulding) has formed a liaison with a very ordinary Republican art-student.

Charles spends time with the Prime Minister and then equal time with the Leader of the Opposition. Everyone tries to get him to change his mind. Kate and the sons plot a way out of the dilemma.

Mike Bartlett's fine new play is written in blank verse and it is difficult not to sit in the audience counting the iambic pentameters at times! This is a most interesting production by Rupert Goold and well worth seeing.

Just finished a short run at Sadlers Wells theatre is MY FIRST BALLET: COPPELIA (now touring until 25 May: New Victoria Theatre, Woking 10 May 2014 - 11 May 2014 0844 871 7645; Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury 17 May 2014 - 18 May 2014 0844 871 7607; Churchill Theatre, Bromley 24 May 2014 - 25 May 2014 0844 871 7620).

My First Ballet: Coppélia tells the comic family tale of an eccentric toymaker, Dr Coppélius, who has created a lifelike mechanical doll, in a simply adapted version for young audiences. He wants to bring her to life, but circumstances prove that it is not possible. In a recorded arrangement of Delibes' irresistibly melodic score, the dancing is accompanied with narration to explain what is happening. Choreographed by George Williamson, the ballet is danced by second year students of English National Ballet School in performances produced by English National Ballet.

I went with a dance expert who was not altogether happy with the truncated version or the expertise of the dancers. However, I thought it a welcome addition to shows introducing youngsters to ballet.

Making us forget all about the damage to its ceiling, the Apollo Theatre now presents a smashing (perhaps not the right word) production of LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (booking until 27 September. Box office 020 7565 5000)

The Swedish film, which came out in 2008, (and the US re-make two years after, which was less good) about the centuries-old vampiric young girl was terrific. But the stage version of John Ajvide Lindqvist's novel is done in such an exciting way that it equals the fascination of the film. The film began the recent passion for vampires, especially amongst young females. This play should satisfy that demand. The present production, adapted by Jack Thorne and directed by John Tiffany, began life in the National Theatre of Scotland, followed by great success at the Royal Court.

Rebecca Benson as the vampire in 'Let the Right One In'

Oskar (movingly portrayed by Martin Quinn) is a loner who is bullied at school. He becomes friendly with a rather strange young girl, Eli (a scary yet tender performance by Rebecca Benson), who is also lonely. She has just moved next door to Oskar along with a man, who we at first believe to be her father, but turns out to be her protector who kills victims by cutting their throats in order to provide the blood which will keep young Eli alive.

A beautifully realised set, designed by Christine Jones, showing a moonlit forest which is covered in snow, enhances the action. There are movement sequences which sound false but in fact also bring to life the strange but mesmeric atmosphere. There are a lot of chilling moments, some of which are very scary and an amazing final scene. I can see this play having a long run in the newly restored Apollo theatre.

SUNNY AFTERNOON has just opened at the Hampstead, London theatre. It is their first musical and I foresee a success for Ed Hall's very lively production. (until 24 May. Box office 020 7722 9301). Being the title of one of the songs by the Kinks, it won't take the more perceptive of my readers to realise that this musical tells the story of the group. In particular it focusses on Ray Davies, the lead singer.

The show is similar to quite a few other stories of poor boys who come together to form a group and are then shafted by a number of agents and managers as they produce best-selling songs. The difference here is that the songs are very fine and are performed very well by the actor/singers. While John Dagleish doesn't look exactly like Davies he has a good voice and puts across the songs expertly. His brother Dave is played by a better look-alike in the form of George Maguire and the other members of the group are quite similar to the picture of the original boys in the programme.

As with their production of Chariots of Fire the stage and auditorium have been transformed. A catwalk comes out from the stage into the middle of the audience and the actors also move around the side aisles. They all encourage the audience on to their feet at the end of the show. With such tuneful songs as Waterloo Sunset, All Day and All of the Night, Dedicated Follower of Fashion and, of course, Sunny Afternoon, we need little encouragement to rise to our feet and sing and clap along. Do we see yet another West End transfer for a Hampstead show?

Carlie Newman

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