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FILM: September 2009

A film to enjoy as light science fiction with a lot of romance is THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE (cert. 12A 1hr 17mins). When I read Audrey Niffeneggar's book it was easy to believe that the lead character Henry (Eric Bana) was really able to travel through time as he had a defect in his genes. I must say that most of the other critics at the press screening didn't feel that way!

The Time Travellers Wife

And obviously if you are unable to accept the concept of a man who lives his life not knowing when he is going to travel back or forwards in time to some place that he doesn't know and where he always arrives stark naked, then you may well have a difficulty in enjoying the film! If you can accept this just as you have taken on board that ET came to visit a little boy and Superman can fly etc then allow yourself to be moved by the difficulties that Henry faces as well as Clare, who becomes his wife. I thought the film kept close to the book and Rachel McAdams' Clare is cute.

Coming out in September is CREATION (certificate & running time TBC). The story of Charles Darwin and his great work of 1859, On the Origin of the Species, it shows the scientist developing his ideas alongside the life he lived with his family, especially his devastation over the death of his oldest daughter, Annie, aged 10. Concentrating on the period in his life where this loss occurred Charles (a realistic performance by Paul Bettany) has become distanced from his wife (played by Bettany's real-life wife, the attractive Jennifer Connelly) partly because of his emphasis on the loss of his daughter and neglect of their other children and partly because she is deeply religious and sees the book he is writing as an affront to her religious convictions. How Charles learns to cope with his loss and work again on his book forms the centre of this fascinating film, which has excellent photography. Although very sentimental, I hope it won't be seen as merely a "woman's film."

The story of the notorious French gangster, Jacques Mesrine, is told in two parts. The first is MESRINE: KILLER INSTINCT (cert.15 1hr. 23mins), and the second one, MESRINE:PUBLIC ENEMY NO 1 (cert.15 2hrs.13mins) both out now. We are introduced to Mesrine (Vincent Cassel) serving as a soldier in the Algerian war. Back home he wants easy money and a glamorous life and begins his criminal career, introduced by Guido (Gerard Depardieu). He escapes from prison more than once and has relationships with women. All the time he is hunted by Commander Broussard (Olivier Gourmet). By the time he is shot by police in the streets of Paris in 1979 he has become a legend. Cassel is absolutely wonderful in this part and his coarse features and rough manner seem to embody the gangster. All the more surprising, therefore, to meet the charming, good-looking Cassel at his press conference. In reply to my question about his character, Cassel said that Mesrine always kept his word and was considered a man of honour by others! The gangster was a showman and wanted everyone to see what he did. In French with English subtitles the films are easy to follow and well worth seeing.

Also out and worth going to the cinema to see: BROKEN EMBRACES (cert. 15 2hrs.8mins.). Perhaps not as perfect as some of Pedro Almodovar's other films, it is well worth seeing for the quality of its images, intriguing story and performances by the actors: Penelope Cruz as the beautiful woman loved by the film director Harry Crane (Lluis Homar), who is also called Mateo, and the somewhat evil, wealthy Ernesto (Jose Luis -Gomez).

And do try and catch the excellent documentary, which I saw at last year's Edinburgh Film festival, THREE MILES NORTH OF MOLKOM (1hr.52mins.), a most amusing account of the two weeks spent by filmmakers Robert Cannan and Corinna Villari-McFarlane at an annual festival in the forests of Sweden. Known for its "tree-hugging" activities, the film follows seven completely different individuals including a sceptical Australian. When I interviewed them the co-directors of the film told me that they had filmed hundreds of hours of film in order to follow the participants of one group. Lots of amusing moments but you may have to wait until it is out on DVD before you are able to see it.

A more serious note is struck by SIN NOMBRE (literally, WITHOUT A NAME) (cert.15 1hr.36mins.) which gives a realistic view of how immigrants travel through Central America to get to the United States, often pursued by violent gangs.

The Hurt Locker

THE HURT LOCKER (cert. 15 2hrs. 4mins.) is a really powerfully constructed film, which shows the courage under fire of the technicians of a bomb squad who volunteer to challenge the odds and save lives in one of the world's most dangerous places.Three members of the U.S.Armys elite bomb disposal unit in Iraq: Jeremy Renner as Staff Sergeant William James, Anthony Mackie, as Sergeant Sanborn and Brian Geraghty as Specialist Owen Eldridge get rid of roadside bombs on the streets of Baghdad.

The story is based on the first-hand observations of journalist and screenwriter Mark Boal. There are brief appearances by Ralph Fiennes and Guy Pearce.

The film is brilliantly photographed by Barry Ackroyd and director Kathryn Bigelow manages to bring a most realistic feel to the exciting action. However I didn't find it enjoyable in the way that The Time Traveler's Wife is or even INGLOURIUS BASTERDS, which, although fantastical, also has a feel of excitement about it. If Creation is considered a woman's film then The Hurt Locker is certainly a man's film!


There is a really interesting play on at the GLOBE theatre: A NEW WORLD - THE LIFE OF THOMAS PAINE (until 9 October) tells the story, or part of it, of Tom Paine, the author of The Rights of Man. Trevor Griffiths, well-known for his progressive views, has fashioned an elaborate play which is directed with equal enthusiasm by Dominic Dromgoole with just the right mixture of instruction, entertainment and spectacle. During some research into Paine's life I was interested to discover that he was dismissed from his job as an excise officer after leading a protest movement for higher salaries (reminds me of the early life of my late friend Jack Jones). The play starts when Paine emigrates to America in 1774, where he becomes involved with the struggle of the colonies to free themselves from British domination. This leads to the publication of Common Sense, in which he argues that the colonies should be given independence from British rule. When he finds that he is to play no part in the establishment of the new independent America, Paine leaves.

Supporting what is happening in France Tom Paine writes The Rights of Man, defending the French Revolution and pushing for democratic rights for all and a sort of welfare state that he sees as necessary in order to give economic equity. He pushed for people's rights to shape their own government. But during the Reign of Terror he is imprisoned and just manages to escape the guillotine.

A New World

While in prison he writes The Age of Reason, which is basically an anti-biblical treatise. Paine returns to the US in 1802, where he finds himself ostracised by former colleagues and dies in poverty attended by a handful of friends. Griffiths builds into his play the relationships Paine has with women, in particular Carnet, his French translator and lover.

Dromgoole sets the stage with a dominant globe and scaffolding on each side. The actors - most playing a number of roles - move around and through the standing audience and everyone feels very involved it the production. John Light makes a fine Paine, although his accent wanders a bit and Alix Riemer is an attractive and feisty Carnet. Keith Bartlett leads us adroitly through the action in the persona of Benjamin Franklin and there are particularly good songs with a folksy feel to them; all extremely well sung.

It is interesting that Paine's words were quoted by President Barack Obama in his inaugural address: "Let it be told to the future world that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive, that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet it."

To all you political activists - including those who were once, or wish they had been - catch this while you can and let us know your views on Thomas Paine, his writings and this production!

Carlie Newman

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