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FILM: November 2006

The final week of the London Film Festival has produced a number of excellent films, some of which - including those that I have already written about - will be on general release this month. As the others come out I'll tell you about them.

At the LFF, and everywhere soon, BREAKING AND ENTERING (cert. 15 1hr.58mins.) is a film with a story that is particularly relevant, not just for London where it is set, but for any large city where development is taking place right next to a deprived area. Written and directed by Anthony Minghella, it evolves around a series of thefts from a landscape architect's offices near King's Cross. It also tells of Will's - the partner in the firm - growing estrangement from his (domestic) partner, Liv who spends almost all her time coping with her disturbed 13-year old daughter.

Breaking and Entering
Jude Law and Robin Wright Penn in Breaking and Entering

Will follows a teenage thief back to the home he shares with his Bosnian refugee mother, Amira. Will embarks on an affair with her that results in many changes to the lives of those involved. There are intense performances from Jude Law as Will, Martin Freeman as his partner in the firm, Juliette Binoche as Amira and Robin Wright Penn as Liv. I thought the film well directed and photographed and the performances particularly by newcomer Rafi Gavron as the young thief and Binoche as his mother excellent.

The Departed
The Departed

Still around is THE DEPARTED (cert.18 2hrs.30mins.) with which director Martin Scorsese shows that he is well up to scratch and, possibly, the worthy recipient of an Oscar - finally. A superb cast strut their stuff in this tale of two cops in South Boston. One of them (Leonardo DiCaprio) is assigned to infiltrate the mob led by Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson, who just avoids being Over The Top!) while Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) secretly works for Costello while seeming to be working to catch him. If it sounds a bit complicated, it is at the beginning as the two young actors look somewhat alike, but it soon develops into a very clever crime thriller.

Also worth catching, and still on is THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA (cert. PG 1hr. 50mins.). Meryl Streep delivers a bravura performance as Miranda, the boss from hell, who is the most powerful woman in fashion. Andy, Miranda's assistant, is played by Anne Hathaway, who shows she is not just a pretty face. The clothes are divine with a sharp script and an interesting story. The film is light and amusing and most enjoyable.

The Devil Wears Prada
The Devil Wears Prada

Very different but probably more worthy is MAN PUSH CART (cert. 15 1hr 27mins.) consisting of mainly non-professional actors depicting the life of a very hard up Pakistani who pushes his large cart into place to sell coffee and bagels on the streets of New York - a very different city from that depicted in the film about fashion. He was well-known as a rock singer in his home country but now ekes out his living while he tries to get back his son, who was taken to live with his unpleasant in-laws after his wife died

Click on the Play button above to watch the trailer for Man Push Cart

A brief mention for THE HISTORY BOYS (cert.15 1hr. 52mins.) Nicholas Hytner's film of the stage play written by Alan Bennett which was so successful at the National Theatre and on Broadway. Although a little stagey, it's pleasing to have such a witty, well-written play that is well acted by the original cast. It is about to return to the stage at the Wyndham's Theatre, London.

Two of the cast can be seen in STARTER FOR 10 which goes on general release in November. This is a delightful film set in the mid 1980s about a working-class kid (the up and coming James McAvoy) at Bristol University, who attempts to shine on University Challenge.



Cabaret at the Lyric Theatre
Anna Maxwell Martin (Sally Bowles), top, in Cabaret at the Lyric Theatre, London

At last a really good adult musical: do go and see CABARET at the Lyric Theatre Shaftesbury Ave. As a portrayal of decadent Berlin in the early 1930s, the set, very sexy costumes and choreography couldn't be bettered. Rufus Norris directs an excellent cast with James Dreyfus showing that he can act in a creepy as well as humorous way as the Emcee. Michael Hayden in the Christopher Isherwood autobiographical role of Cliff is not very charismatic and the Sally Bowles of Anna Maxwell-Martin doesn't have the singing voice of say Lisa Minelli - but then she is supposed to be a second class singer in a seedy nightclub. Sheila Hancock playing Fraulein Schneider and Geoffrey Hutchings as Herr Schultz remind us how versatile and professional our British actors are.

Previously I had not noticed how many songs there are about ageing. Hancock sings movingly So What? About being "as old as I" and later about time rushing by in What Would You Do?

There are some very naughty bits, such as Dreyfus in bed with two women singing Two Ladies. The end, where the nude chorus cower foretelling the concentration camp, managed to still the very enthusiastic audience.

A somewhat different, though moving, show, is A MOON FOR THE MISBEGOTTEN (Old Vic), which is Kevin Spacey and company very much back on form. Directed by Howard Davies, and set in 1923, the story of two people, Jim Tyrone (Spacey) and Josie (Eve Best) reaching out to each other and never quite connecting because of his alcoholism and her pretence at being a woman with loose morals, is both moving and harrowing. Written by Eugene O'Neill and, like Cabaret, based on his own life, the production is well mounted and well acted by all the cast.


Carlie Newman

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