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FILM:NOVEMBER 2007

The Times BFI 51st London Film Festival will be coming to an end as you read this. However, many of the films will be on show over the coming year. MISTER LONELY (1hr. 22mins.) will be released in early 2008. Directed by Harmony Korine, it shows a group of impersonators who live at a seaside commune in Scotland. A Michael Jackson impersonator falls for a Marilyn Monroe look-alike, married to a "Charlie Chaplin". They have "Shirley Temple" as their daughter.

mister lonely

There is a surreal secondary theme of nuns who can fly living in a Latin American jungle. Amazing performances by actors - including Samantha Morton as Marilyn, Diego Luna as Jackson, James Fox as the Pope - who look little like their idols, but bring a touching living quality to them make this film one to look out for.

Also worth seeing is Joanna Hogg's debut film UNRELATED (1hr. 40mins.). Kathryn Worth is impressive as a woman in her 40s who arrives at a holiday home in Italy and spends all her time with the teenagers rather than her old school friend and others of her age. The story, a little slow, gradually unfolds so that one gets to know what lies behind this strange behaviour.

Back with the normal film releases, two strong films hit the senses. CONTROL (cert. 15 2hrs.) is Anton Corbjin's stunning black and white portrayal of Ian Curtis (excellent acting by Sam Riley) of the group Joy Division. Based on the book by his wife Debbie (here played most movingly once again by Samantha Morton) we get a real feel for Ian's anguish and his death at just 23 is very sad to observe.

the counterfeiters

THE COUNTERFEITERS (cert. 15 1hr. 38mins.) is most impressively written and directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky. Told mainly in a flashback we are made to understand the dilemma facing a master Jewish forger who is arrested and made to work alongside a small group forging money for the Nazis in a concentration camp in return for better conditions than other inmates.

Should they resist and be shot or work hard and be rewarded or choose a middle way whereby they slow up proceedings. Good acting all round makes one consider what we would have done in those circumstances.

If you get the chance do see RENDITION (cert.15 2hrs.02mins.), a very powerful political thriller dealing with the custom of 'extraordinary rendition' in America, whereby, without informing anyone connected with the victim, an alleged terrorist can be taken by plane to another country where he is possibly tortured to extract information

rendition

South African director Gavin Hood has put together an astonishing but believable account of one such suspect who is "abducted" from his flight back to his pregnant wife (Reese Witherspoon) and young child and transported to another country where he is tortured for long periods even though he has no information on a suicide bomber's activities in North Africa. He is watched by Douglas (Jake Gyllenhaal) who tells the CIA boss (Meryl Streep) that he is at his "first torture". She coldly denies that the USA does any such thing. There is a secondary story concerning the chief "torturer" (played by Igal Naor) who has his own problems when his daughter becomes involved with an Islamic fundamentalist. It is definitely worth going out of your way to catch this.

DEATH AT A FUNERAL (cert.15 1hr.30mins.) has a number of English actors - including Rupert Graves and Matthew Mcfadyen as the brothers at their father's funeral- along with others portraying a family and friends' behaviour at a family funeral, all in a farcical manner. Quite funny, although the title may put you off. Frank Oz directs and the film includes people on designer drugs behaving, badly!

A film with one of the longest titles I have come across opens at the end of November. THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD (cert. 15 2hrs. 35mins.) is a long and lyrical story about.yes, the title tells you but the film is always absorbing in its depiction of how the assassination occurs and, more importantly, exactly when.

Assassination

There is also some explanation of why Robert Ford is called a coward after he shoots Jesse James. Brad Pitt is charming, deadly and occasionally vulnerable in his portrayal of Jesse. Casey Affleck is a real find as the 19 year-old Bob (Robert) who wants to be like his hero, Jesse. "Do you wanna be like me or be me?" Jesse asks him and we realise that Bob is actually jealous of Jesse, who he has worshipped since he was a boy even keeping lots of magazines full of 'Jesse James and his gang's' stories.

. Ben Affleck better look to his laurels - such as they are - as his younger brother is already his superior in the acting stakes.



THEATRE TIP: November 2007

An old play performed in a completely different manner - that is Rupert Goold's wonderful production of MACBETH (Gielgud). It helps, of course, to have Patrick Stewart in his prime as an older than usual Scottish man who would be king and Kate Fleetwood as his lady.

Beginning in a military hospital, three nurses become the witches and later disappear into a lift at the back of the stage. The witches then play parts at the banquet that Macbeth lays on and later perform a rap version of "bubble, bubble, toil." The lift is in use quite often and other imaginative staging brings modern ideas together with old ideas of service and morality.

Patrick stewart in Macbeth

There is much blood around! Stewart's voice is mature and clear and not too melodramatic while Fleetwood, looking younger than her husband, allows us to believe in her strength in the early scenes when she goads her husband into murder and her vulnerability at the end when she is so wracked with guilt that she is unable to sleep.

Shadowlands

I thought that I would always see Anthony Hopkins when I thought of C.S. Lewis, but henceforth I shall probably associate Charles Dance in this role. He gives a most sympathetic portrait of the author in SHADOWLANDS (Wyndhams), the play that tells how Lewis, a confirmed bachelor, found late love with the American divorcee Joy Gresham. They first undergo a "technical marriage" in a registry office and when she is dying of cancer have a religious marriage.

All the actors are good, the play is intelligently written by William Nicholson and the audience was completely silent throughout the poignant scenes.

SWIMMING WITH SHARKS (Vaudeville) stars Christian Slater as Buddy Ackerman) a ruthless Producer in a Hollywood full of those who want to go upwards in their career by any means they can

A new boy, Guy (Matt Smith) comes to work for Buddy and is taught how to operate in his service. He learns well and is able to move up the ladder himself. In a very well-written play by George Huang, Christan Slater is both charming and egotistical - perhaps a bit too nice, but he comes across well and Smith is a real find.

Swimming with sharks

The setting is attractive, mainly in Buddy's office and there is humour as well as human interest provided. While the ending is somewhat over the top it is great to have another PLAY in the West End.

A brief mention for TRELAWNEY OF THE WELLS, performed in rep by the Actors Company at the lovely New Players Theatre. Although they are dressed in beautiful crinolines and perform on a good set, the production does not have the lightness of touch required to bring out the comedy. The play seemed dated not just in the original and proper use of words such as 'gay' and 'queer.'

While real prisons have little in the way of music and song I thought that BAD GIRLS The Musical (Garrick) captured the noise of women's prisons particularly well, especially in the opening black and white film which introduced the characters and their offences to us. There was some good singing and the show was well-staged with some realistic dialogue amongst the more outrageous moments. Unlike the TV show, which never appealed to me, this had moments of humour and sadness and a story line of its own.

     

Carlie Newman

   
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