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FILM: April 2006

Directed by Spike Lee, INSIDE MAN (cert. 15 2hrs. 9mins.) is an exciting caper. Although it is about a robbery in a bank, where 50 customers are taken hostage, it is not violent. Putting Clive Owen, as the mastermind criminal,l against Denzil Washington, as a newly promoted detective, alongside Jodie Foster, as an influential Manhattan power broker, works extremely well.

Inside Man

Christopher Plummer appears as the Chairman of the bank with a secret that he doesn't want exposed and Chiwetel Ejiofor as Washington's side-kick shows that he has now reached Hollywood star status.

The film is full of innuendos and tricks to fool the audience as well as the other players. With many surprises, the only issue I would quibble about is its length and, even that, has some merit as we forget what has happened until we see the unlikely consequences. I don't want to give much more of the plot away as that would spoil what is a truly entertaining film.

The film version of "Rent"

Just coming out is RENT (cert. 12A 2hrs.15mins.), the film version of the Pulitzer and Tony Award winning musical about Bohemians in the East Village of New York City struggling with life and homelessness, love and AIDS, and the effect they have on the public around them. It's sung virtually throughout, but beautifully and there is some interesting choreography. The performers -most of whom repeat their Broadway roles - are very fervent and direction, by Chris Columbus, lively. Emotionally charged, the only thing that sometimes causes inappropriate laughter is when someone on their deathbed sits up and sings, but that happens in operas, too, and people flock to those. So.go if you like sung rock musicals as this is surely a film worth seeing.

For once I supported most of the Academy Awards, and if you look back over my past year's reviews you will see that I praised most of the films and actors who were honoured!

The best foreign film Oscar went to TSOTSI (cert. 15A 1hr. 35mins.), which has just come out. Again, this is a worthy winner. Based on a novel by Athol Fugard and written and directed by Gavin Hood, the film shows the development of a young South African thug (a "tsotsi") from a vicious,

The best foreign film Oscar winner "Tsotsi"

seemingly emotionless young gang leader into a caring human being through looking after a baby which he finds in a car he has stolen.The novel has been updated to the present and the mainly young inexperienced cast speak Tsotsi Ttaal, the township slang. The lead, Presley Chweneyagae, gives a remarkable performance and he is backed up by a range of very good characterisations. Do try to see it.

Another foreign film using non-actors or former actors who became ultra-orthodox, UZHPIZIN (cert. PG 1hr. 33mins.) is set in Jerusalem on the eve of the festival of Succoth and Moshe (Shuli Rand) finds himself without money, work, or a Succah, the temporary dwellings that religious Jews stay in to commemorate the Exodus. The gift of $1,000 from a Charity seems like a miracle to Moshe and his wife (Rand's real-life wife, (Michal Bat Sheva Rand). The couple receive 2 escaped prisoners joyfully as ushpizin (holy guests) to stay in the succah. These guests, however, are far from holy and the efforts of the couple in trying to get rid of their guests and then feeling guilty provides much mirth. This gentle, amusing tale provides an insight into a closed world and is entertaining.

There is a third foreign film on show which like the others has more appeal than the current American movies on offer. THE DOUBLE LIFE OF VERONIQUE (cert. 15 1hr. 38mins) was first released in 1991. A fascinating story of two women born on the same day, one in Poland and the other in France, who don't know each other but somehow feel a connection. It is chiefly remarkable for the luminous performance of Irene Jacob in the double role. Direction by Krzysztof Kieslowski brings out the enigma as well as the love story and continues the good work of his Three Colours films.

Still around is TRANSAMERICA (cert.15 1hr. 43mins.), for which Felicity Hoffman received a nomination for the Best Actress Oscar. She plays Bree, a pre-operative, male to female transsexual who is shocked to discover that she has a son as the result of a short heterosexual liaison in the past. Bailing her son from custody, Bree is forced to explain herself to her therapist as well as herself and, finally, to her son, who has some difficulties himself.

They travel back to Los Angeles by road and their journey becomes a voyage of discovery for both of them. There is fine acting from Kevin Zegers as the son and a particularly moving characterisation by Huffman. In fact, the one gripe I have is that Huffman is a woman to start with!


Theatre Tip

Another lively production by the RSC, AS YOU LIKE IT (Novello Theatre) has a simple set - a large tree - and well-thought out performances. Perhaps a little ponderous at times (thus accounting for its length of just over 3 hours). Barnaby Kay is a handsome and believably lovesick Orlando and there is an interesting idea in that Jonathan Newth plays the usurping Duke as well as his banished brother. Unfortunately, the play is only on for a short season.

EMBERS (Duke of York's Theatre) is a very interesting play by Christopher Hampton based on the novel by Sandor Marai. Directed by Michel Blakemore and starring Jeremy Irons and Patrick Malahide as two former friends who meet in 1940 after not having seen each other for 41 years.

They talk about the past which includes the visitor, Konrad (Malahide) almost killing Henrik (Irons). Konrad has been having an affair with Henrik's wife and, when he leaves her, Henrik believes that, too, to be wrong and says so. There is a lot of dialogue, which, unfortunately, is hard to hear much of the time. I hope that the complaint made by my companion and I will lead to an improvement.

TABOOS at the tiny New End Theatre, Hampstead is another interesting idea. Concerned with sperm donation but with the twist that the recipient is a lesbian receiving the "donation" from her female lover's brother. Moving effortlessly between San Francisco and a small town in Mississippi and written by the award winning scientist Carl Djerassi, it throws up many questions and some answers but develops into a rather far-fetched story with the involvement of the recipient's brother and his childless wife!

If you like listening to Frank Sinatra and still miss him, run along to SINATRA at the London Palladium. The great man himself is shown on old film backed up by an energetic band leader and his musicians and even more energetic dancers. It doesn't show enough of the singer's life and rushes through his marriages. One rather strange section has Sinatra singing 'Send in the Clowns' to the coffin of Jack Kennedy when the two actually fell out before Kennedy died.

The Palladium has excellent access and parking for disabled people.

     
     

Carlie Newman

   
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