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A Trip to the Cinema: Feb/March 2004

I expect the big film in March will be 21 GRAMS (cert.15 2 hrs. 4 mins.). After all two of its stars are up for Oscars: Naomi Watts in the best actress category and Benicio Del Toro as a best supporting actor nominee. It also deals with a "big" theme; it's a thoughtful meditation on death, with complex well-drawn characters. But like director Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu's debut, Amores Perros, his second film, in English, is equally difficult to watch. It has a fractured dialogue which jumps around in time. It can be somewhat confusing, but is well worth the effort of concentration.

The story centres on three completely unrelated characters that are brought together through a gruesome car accident. Paul (Sean Penn) is a mathematician in desperate need of a heart transplant. He is nursed by his wife (Charlotte Gainsbourg), who desperately wants his child. Cristina (Naomi Watts) having matured since her reckless past as a drug addict, is now a respectable wife and mother to two little girls. Much further down the socio-economic scale, Jack (Benicio Del Toro) is an ex-con who found God and now inflicts religion on his family.

Not a lot of humour but the performances are excellent throughout, particularly Watts. Penn, who seems, like Nicole Kidman, to be in everything at the moment, gives a strong believable portrayal of a man who, while facing the end of his life, is also trying to cope with new emotions.

PIECES OF APRIL (cert 12A 1hr. 20 mins.) also boasts a remarkable performance, this time by Patricia Clarkson. In the film, April (Katie Holmes) is preparing a Thanksgiving feast for her family. When her oven doesn't work she is forced to go from apartment to apartment in the block where she lives to find one that does. The occasion has an added weight because April's mother (Clarkson) is dying of cancer. The family won't mention her illness and April and her mother have never found a way to communicate. At the core of the film is their trying to find one another, find a common ground. Good comedy (!), good film.


A TRIP TO THE THEATRE

A terrific production of THE TAMING OF THE SHREW followed by a very creditable THE TAMER TAMED shows the RSC in top form at the Queen's Theatre Shaftesbury Avenue. Gregory Doran directs both with great panache.

Alexandra Gilbreath is particularly good as a Kate who blossoms under the sexual advances of Petrucio. Her initial shouting and rages give way to a softer, more controlled - rather than controllable - woman. This Kate certainly gets tamed, but through love as well as the usual dog-training type of obedience. I had never seen The Tamer Tamed before. Fletcher's play hasn't got the poetry to be found in Shakespeare but it plays well as a sequel, showing Petrucio in his second marriage. This time the tables are turned as his new wife Maria (Gilbreath again) sets about taming him.

Alexandra Gilbreath is particularly good as a Kate who blossoms under the sexual advances of Petrucio. Her initial shouting and rages give way to a softer, more controlled - rather than controllable - woman. This Kate certainly gets tamed, but through love as well as the usual dog-training type of obedience. I had never seen The Tamer Tamed before. Fletcher's play hasn't got the poetry to be found in Shakespeare but it plays well as a sequel, showing Petrucio in his second marriage. This time the tables are turned as his new wife Maria (Gilbreath again) sets about taming him.

Jasper Britton comes over well as the younger more virile Petrucio in Shakespeare's play and a somewhat coarse older version in the sequel. You will need to hurry as both plays are scheduled to finish in early March.

Carlie Newman    

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