Article: 19980101022

Title: Movies

19980101022
00074065
200050_19980101_074065.xml
Movies
0032-1478
Playboy
HMH Publishing Co., Inc.
Review-Films
19
19,20
review
The Opening shot of Bent (MGM/UA) reveals Mick Jagger in drag, looking ghastly as Greta, the proprietor of a bisexual club in Berlin under Hitler. What follows is a surreal and grueling tale about the fate of gays branded in Nazi Germany. Adapted by Martin Sherman from his play (a success on London and Broadway stages some years ago), the film version is directed by Sean Mathias, with Clive Owens, Lothaire Bluteau and Brian Webber as the homosexual victims of the Holocaust era. After Webber's grisly death, Owens and Bluteau are imprisoned in a camp, ordered to move piles of rocks from place to place until exhaustion or madness overcomes them. In one memorable scene, the two men make love to the point of ejaculation while standing at attention side by side in the prison yard. As a life-affirming statement about tolerance and repression, Bent is anything but realistic. Still, its stark emotional impact may shake you. [rating]2 bunnies[/rating]
Bruce Williamson
19
20

The Opening shot of Bent (MGM/UA) reveals Mick Jagger in drag, looking ghastly as Greta, the proprietor of a bisexual club in Berlin under Hitler. What follows is a surreal and grueling tale about the fate of gays branded in Nazi Germany. Adapted by Martin Sherman from his play (a success on London and Broadway stages some years ago), the film version is directed by Sean Mathias, with Clive Owens, Lothaire Bluteau and Brian Webber as the homosexual victims of the Holocaust era. After Webber's grisly death, Owens and Bluteau are imprisoned in a camp, ordered to move piles of rocks from place to place until exhaustion or madness overcomes them. In one memorable scene, the two men make love to the point of ejaculation while standing at attention side by side in the prison yard. As a life-affirming statement about tolerance and repression, Bent is anything but realistic. Still, its stark emotional impact may shake you. [rating]2 bunnies[/rating]

Three men playing a deadly cat-and-mouse game with a lie detector confront one another in Deceiver (MGM). Chris Penn and Michael Rooker are the detectives giving a polygraph test to murder suspect Tim Roth, who plays a privileged wastrel who may or may not be guilty of murdering a prostitute (Rene Zellweger) and dissecting the corpse. Except for flashbacks into the three men's twisted lives, much of the movie takes place in the interrogation room, where we finally learn that both the detectives and the accused might be capable of homicide. What's true or false is a puzzlement deftly juggled by Jonas and Josh Pate, the identical twins who wrote and directed Deceiver. With a charismatic supporting cast that includes Ellen Burstyn and Rosanna Arquette, these brothers are on a roll.[rating]3 bunnies[/rating]

Superior acting by Ralph Fiennes and Cate Blanchett, combined with able direction by Australia's brilliant Gillian Armstrong, can't quite make Oscar and Lucinda (Fox Searchlight) anything more than an eccentric, provocative period piece. Adapted from Peter Carey's Booker Prize-winning novel, the story concerns an English-born minister (Fiennes) who is also a compulsive gambler. Hoping to shed his addiction, he boards ship for Australia to become a missionary and meets a freethinking heiress (Blanchett) on the high seas. She owns a glass factory; he has a vision. Both being gamblers, they decide to build a glass church, then transport it across all-but-impassable terrain and downriver to a friend's parish in the outback. Darkly humorous and picturesque, this is a tragic Victorian love story about two reckless dreamers united in a lost cause. While not always easy to take, Oscar and Lucinda is somehow hard to forget.[rating]2-1/2 bunnies[/rating]

The opulent French-language Beau-marchais, the Scoundrel (New Yorker Films) is a witty biographical epic directed by Edouard Molinaro, best remembered here for La Cage aux Folles parts one and two. Fabrice Luchini portrays 18th century playwright Pierre Beaumarchais, whose story begins with a Paris audience booing one of his plays. Both The Barber of Seville and The Marriage of Figaro landed him in jail. Before the French revolution, he was recruited by Louis XV and Louis XVI, first as a spy to England, then as an arms supplier to the American revolution. All this, combined with his lofty attitude and his womanizing, particularly with the beautiful Marie-Therese (Sandrine Kiberlain), supports his scoundrel reputation. A supporting cast of top French actors rallies to a subject that was a success in Paris but may not have much impact Stateside. [rating]3 bunnies[/rating]

British actor Alan Rickman makes his directorial debut with The Winter Guest (Fine Line), set in a bleak seaside Scottish village. Rickman co-wrote this adaptation of a play by Sharman MacDonald about an inconsolable widow's conversations with her mother as they stroll along a windswept beach. It's all a psychological colloquy about grief, old age, sex, parenthood and getting on with life. Rickman's direction, a little too arty at times, occasionally lets ideas melt into the mist as if the fog were more symbolic than seasonal. On the plus side, Emma Thompson portrays Frances, the bereaved widow, opposite her real-life mother, Phyllida Law. They're an unbeatable pair who know how to keep the dialogue snapping. Colorful subplots concerning Frances' teenage son and a local girl, two schoolboys killing time, and two old women who like to attend funerals are well played but seem irrelevant. Whether bickering or bantering, Thompson and Law are a take-charge team who don't need much back-up. [rating]2 bunnies[/rating]

Pedro Almodóvar's Live Flesh (Goldwyn Films) closed the 1997 New York Film Festival with a bang of eroticism and rough-edged romance. The most celebrated writer-director from Spain spins a lively tale that combines a smidgen of politics with a lot of sex. The main man is Victor (Liberto Rabal), who was born to his prostitute mother on a bus during the latter part of the Franco regime. Some 20 years later, he's a ne'er-do-well who gets into trouble with two cops while aggressively pursuing a girl (Francesca Neri) who had called the police. One of the cops is shot and paralyzed during a struggle, a crime for which Victor serves six years in jail. Once released, he gets mixed up with both policemen again by seducing their wives. The paralyzed cop (Javier Bardem) married the girl he rescued from Victor, and his partner's wife (Angela Molina) is chronically unfaithful. Victor's problem is that he became a gentler guy while in prison, so sexual vengeance doesn't come easy to him. He truly likes both women, and the nice cop who was shot has become a basketball star in a league for the handicapped. Live Flesh is a sensual and engrossing thriller and a winner in Almodóvar's string of big hits and near misses. [rating]3-1/2 bunnies[/rating]

Certain to jump-start the career of Matt Damon (in the title role), Good Will Hunting (Miramax) is an exciting, original drama co-authored by Damon with Ben Affleck, his co-star and long-time friend. Damon has the best of it as Will, a tough orphaned kid from South Boston who gets into trouble with the law but happens to be a genius. Will has a photographic memory and the ability to instantly solve math problems that prize-winning professors have pondered for decades. So Will can avoid jail after a bar fight, he is sent by one professor (Stellan Skarsgård) to a therapist (Robin Williams) who tries to help the wayward, gifted boy. Meanwhile, Will tries to resolve his feelings for a Harvard medical student (Minnie Driver) whose love seems to activate his inferiority complex. His close friend, a construction worker (Affleck), urges him to accept who he is or who he can be. Expertly directed by Gus Van Sant for producer Lawrence Bender (see "Off Camera") and played to perfection by all, Good Will Hunting is certain to rank with the year's best. [rating]4 bunnies[/rating]

Fourteen children die when their school bus plunges into a frozen lake, leaving their small town in British Columbia devastated by the accident. That's the framework for The Sweet Here-after (Fine Line), director Atom Egoyan's moving adaptation of a novel by Russell Banks. The best-known actor in the piece is Britain's Ian Holm, as a big-city lawyer who interviews virtually everyone in the backwoods community to prepare a class-action lawsuit. While fixing blame for the mishap, the lawyer--who has his own demons to confront regarding his wayward daughter--lifts the lid on a carload of dark secrets. A bereaved widower whose two children were killed is having an affair with a married woman. Another man (Tom McCamus) has had an incestuous relationship with his teenage daughter (Sarah Polley), a survivor of the crash. The lady who drove the school bus is tortured by guilt. Alive or dead, children appear to be the victims of abuse, indifference or neglect. A striking change after Exotica or any previous Egoyan movie, Sweet Hereafter is a moody and compelling rural tragedy. [rating]3 bunnies[/rating]

Belgian director Alain Berliner approaches a touchy subject with humor, imagination and delicacy in the French-language Ma Vie en Rose (Sony Classics). Translated as My Life in Pink, it's a surprisingly lightweight story about a little boy named Ludovic, age seven (played to androgynous perfection by 11-year-old Georges du Fresne, who insists he is really a girl). His parents stop smiling at what they first consider a childish whim when Ludovic dresses up as a bride and plays a getting-married game with his best friend, Jerome. Since Ludovic's dad works for Jerome's dad, the sexual switching sets off a chaotic chain of events. Both parents freak out on occasion despite their obvious affection for Ludovic. Throughout, Berliner makes a persuasive statement about the inalienable right to be different without being damned.[rating]3 bunnies[/rating]

Trading brawn for brains, seducing wives to get even and bravely bending genders.

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