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Film: November 2004

The London Film Festival is now on and full of goodies! Pick up a programme and just choose! There are some free screenings including HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS(2 hrs), a spectacular Chinese film set in the year 859AD. It's a love story and a thrilling martial arts action film as well as being visually outstanding.

House of the flying daggers
House of the Flying Daggers

Another film well-worth catching at the Festival or when it is released later is 2046(2 hrs. 7 mins.) In many ways although it is a direct follow-on from In The Mood For Love, it can be appreciated as a stand alone story. Tony Leung gives a straight forward performance as a journalist who is also writing a serial called '2046' in which travelers take endless train journeys to a mysterious destination where they can recapture their lost memories. The lovely Zhang Ziyi plays a good-time girl with whom the journalist has a torrid relationship.

There's an interesting Treasures from the Archive section which includes 4 CHAPLIN KEYSTONES and Fritz Lang's SPIES. Personally, I'm really looking forward to the latest films from Mike Leigh, VERA DRAKE, and Woody Allen, MELINDA AND MELINDA. Details from the NFT.

Meanwhile, to show that we Seniors have all-embracing taste, may I recommend the moving INSIDE I'M DANCING (Cert.15 1hr. 44mins.). Long-term resident of a Home for disabled people, 'a special home for special people,' 24 year old Michael's (Steven Robertson) life is transformed when dynamic Rory (James McAvoy), also young, but in a great hurry to live life to the full, moves into the next room. Amazed that Rory can understand his almost unintelligible speech, Michael quickly forms a friendship and both conspire to move into their own flat.

Inside I'm Dancing
Inside I'm Dancing

They recruit the inexperienced, but very attractive, Siobhan (Romola Garai) as their assistant and suffer rivalry for her attention. Although there has been controversy over the director's decision to employ non-disabled actors in the leading parts, I have to say that they are extremely convincing and the movie should be of interest to you all.

As should SHARK TALE (cert.U 1hr. 30mins.), a computer animated film with a cast of voices to die for. Will Smith stars as Oscar, the fast-talking little fish who is turned into a hero by an improbable lie he allows to spread. Lenny (Jack Black) is the vegetarian shark, who forms a friendship with Oscar, who helps him escape from his Godfather-type dad (Robert De Niro: voice type-casting).

Renee Zellweger as the girlfriend who knows "You don't have to live at the top to be a somebody," and Angelina Jolie, the femme fatale who tries to lure Oscar away when he becomes wealthy, represent the feminine fish. The whole story takes place underwater - clear colours and a range of clever characters. Like its near cousins FINDING NEMO and the SHREK films, it will appeal to children as well as their grandparents!

Theatre Trip

Many of us still remember vividly the film version of ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST (Gielgud Theatre, Shaftesbury Ave.) and its story of a lunatic asylum, its pathetic regular (long-term) inmates and the brash aggressive outsider R.P.McMurphy, who comes into their well ordered, sheltered little world and turns it upside down.

I feared that the memory of Jack Nicholson's performance in the film version would overshadow anything we might see on stage. I was quite wrong! Christian Slater as R.P.McMurphy is simply terrific, whether he's defying the hitherto unchallenged authority of Nurse Ratched (well acted with an eerie and frightening sexuality by Frances Barber); persuading his fellow inmates to demand to watch sport on TV; or twisting the visiting doctor around his little finger. Other noteworthy players are: Brendan Dempsey as (Red Indian) Chief Branden, who pretends to be in a catatonic state until R.P.McM befriends him, Tim Aherne as the malleable Doctor Spivey, who, unlike the nursing and support staff, is prepared to think of the patients as human beings, and Owen O'Neill as Dale Harding, the unofficial leader of the inmates until R.P.McM shows up.

One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest
(Gielgud Theatre, Shaftesbury Ave.)

I confess to being somewhat disappointed by the performance of Mackenzie Crook, who achieved a certain following as Gareth in the BBC TV series 'The Office'. I never felt either convinced or moved by him. Christian Slater has a terrific stage presence which sometimes overwhelms the other actors who struggle to make an impact. He discovers that while the others have voluntarily entered the asylum and can leave if they so choose, he is committed and can be held for as long as the medical staff see fit. The play calls into question the primitive and barbaric treatment of the mentally ill (or just badly adjusted) people in our society and is thought provoking and well worth seeing.

There's a terrific cast in a rather poor play, directed by Kevin Spacey at the Old Vic. CLOACA has an interesting theme - the possible misappropriation of works of art and the characters, well-portrayed by Stephen Tompkinson, Hugh Bonneville, Neil Pearson and Adrian Lukis, are always worth watching, but somehow it lacks depth.

As does THE SOLID GOLD CADILLAC at the Garrick Theatre, but it is set in the 1950s and if you accept it as a period piece it is quite acceptable. Patricia Routledge as the small shareholder who asks questions about the fat cats and Roy Hudd, as the wealthy boss, are absolutely terrific - apart some blips with their American accents - and the lines are often witty. Should strike some resonant chords with our readers!

My husband and I actually saw THE PRODUCERS (Drury Lane Theatre) in New York when we were there two years ago. It's a lively musical, extremely well-written by Mel Brooks. Nathan Lane, who makes an excellent Max Bialystock, a rather pathetic producer, reproduces his Broadway character. New to the British cast is Lee Evans a as Max's accountant who helps the producer concoct a money making scheme to put on a certain flop by the name of 'Springtime For Hitler.' Their plan misfires, of course, and much jollity ensues.

Carlie Newman


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