CINEMA / The Hawk that refused to take off

'SOMEBODY'S husband, somebody's son' was how the police chief hunting the Yorkshire Ripper described his quarry. The phrase - an attempt to put a human face on inhuman acts - was the title of Gordon Burn's account of the Ripper, and now inspires a new British thriller, The Hawk (15).

The film opens with a woman getting out of her broken- down car to phone for help. The next time we see her, she's a body under a police blanket, gouged and mutilated by the Hawk - 'Does what the bird does: plucks out the eyes,' explains a cop. But the film is not about the killer, or his victims (this is the only one we see), but his wife. I Married a Serial Killer could have been the title.

Helen Mirren plays the wife - she's now married to the Prime Suspect. The shadow of Peter Sutcliffe, the real-life Ripper, hangs over her as it does over the whole film. Like Sonia Sutcliffe, Mirren's Annie Marsh seems socially a cut above her working-class husband, Stephen (George Costigan).

Haggard and distracted, she lives in a different world, a stranger to the blokeish humour Stephen shares with his leering brother (Christopher Madin). We see him take her to his sleazy local for the first time, and it's only after she recognises a young prostitute from there, pictured as the Hawk's latest victim, that she suspects. As she leafs through a diary, piecing together Stephen's movements, a sound-montage of news reports, mixed in with his incriminating comments, mimics her mind's scramble to accusation.

Mirren has such a commanding presence that it's hard to believe in her as a victim. Even mussing her hair up into frowsy curls, for a night out, she seems to have an infinite variety; and her metropolitan allure, like her Southern accent, can't help glinting beneath the grime. Director David Hayman does his best by constantly shooting her behind bars - bannister rails or the slats of the kitchen blinds - but you can't see what's keeping her from walking out (or why she ever walked in). Though a flickering sexual attraction is hinted at, the real reason for her inaction is a history of mental illness: an unconvincing cop-out, as she looks more like a psychiatrist than a patient.

The film doesn't delve into Stephen's psychopathology. In the pub, we glimpse the macho aggression of his natural habitat, as he listens to jokes about Pakistanis and vomits over the table. Like Peter Sutcliffe, he may be killing out of sublimated hatred for his wife - his victims, like Annie, are mothers of two. Though the film is Annie's, we could have done with a little more of the sexist culture imprisoning her, the sense of language itself being steeped in misogyny that there was in Blake Morrison's Ballad of the Yorkshire Ripper. But the film tackles its subject intelligently, without the sensationalism of The Silence of the Lambs, or the glib black humour of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. It aims to do more than just entertain. It's not a failure, but it doesn't quite soar.

Alain Resnais' 1961 Last Year in Marienbad (U) is re- released to wish the Everyman Cinema, Hampstead, a happy, if rather recherche 60th birthday. Resnais and his screen- writer, Alain Robbe-Grillet, rejected traditional linear film form, with its weary causality, for something more fluid; the images - taken from memory and imagination as well as reality - flow together like a dream's. A stranger (Giorgio Albertazzi) wanders through the baroque opulence of a huge hotel. From among the guests, all standing like cardboard cut- outs in formal evening attire, he is drawn to a beautiful young woman (Delphine Seyrig). He seeks to rescue her from this time-deserted palace by offering her a past, and a future - by claiming to have had an affair with her last year, now to be resumed. The more the woman is drawn into his reality, the less we're sure that it's fantasy.

This is the plot, but you'd be advised not to follow it: that way, Robbe-Grillet admitted in the text, lies confusion, if not incomprehension. It's more rewarding to treat the film as a poem, drinking in the icily majestic images, and realising that wherever Resnais' endless tracking shots are leading, it's not towards meaning. You may feel, by the end, that this portrait of a present weighed down by the past is perversely uncinematic. Resnais' obsession with memory was most effective in the Auschwitz of Nuit et Bruillard, where it felt natural that life should be halted in history's tracks. Here, deprived even of the human warmth of Hiroshima, Mon Amour, it feels sterile, leaving us as mesmerised by its boredom as its beauty.

Also at the Everyman, before touring the regions, is Tale of the Fox (U), by a neglected master of animation, the Pole Wladyslaw Starewicz (1882- 1965). The film was shot in 1930-31, but was being prepared for 10 years before. Starewicz's puppetry brings to life not only the wily fox but also the whole animal kingdom, from the lion king, in his brocaded tunic, down. The compositions are clean and startling, often verging on chiaroscuro, and no detail is spared: when the fox looks down a well, we get a shot of him from below, silhouetted against the sky - a day's work, perhaps, for a glorious grace note. With its cranky humour and meticulous stop-motion, this film is an ancestor of Tim Burton's The Nightmare before Christmas, just out in America. Though Starewicz cocks a snook at Disney, he is not free of sentimentality. It's chiefly a mechanical triumph.

Which is more than can be said of the grim road movie Bound and Gagged (18), in which a woman kidnapped by her lesbian ex-lover is driven, sometimes stuffed in the boot, by her suicidal ex-husband to a therapist. Half an hour in, I realised it was a comedy; the last hour still didn't raise a laugh.

Cinema details: Review, page 106

(Photograph omitted)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Radio 4's Today programme host Evan Davis has been announced as the new face of Newsnight

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams performing on the Main Stage at the Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park, north London

music
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Mathison returns to the field in the fourth season of Showtime's Homeland

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Crowds soak up the atmosphere at Latitude Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Meyne Wyatt and Caren Pistorus arrive for the AACTA Aawrds in Sydney, Australia

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rick Astley's original music video for 'Never Gonna Give You Up' has been removed from YouTube

music
Arts and Entertainment
Quentin Blake's 'Artists on the beach'

Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beach

art
Arts and Entertainment
MusicFans were left disappointed after technical issues
Arts and Entertainment
'Girl with a Pearl Earring' by Johannes Vermeer, c. 1665
artWhat is it about the period that so enthrals novelists?
Arts and Entertainment
Into the woods: The Merry Wives of Windsor at Petersfield
theatreOpen-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Arts and Entertainment
James singer Tim Booth
latitude 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Lee says: 'I never, ever set out to offend, but it can be an accidental by-product'
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe judges were wowed by the actress' individual cooking style
Arts and Entertainment
Nicholas says that he still feels lucky to be able to do what he loves, but that there is much about being in a band he hates
musicThere is much about being in a band that he hates, but his debut album is suffused with regret
Arts and Entertainment
The singer, who herself is openly bisexual, praised the 19-year-old sportsman before launching into a tirade about the upcoming Winter Olympics

books
Arts and Entertainment
music
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Cryer and Ashton Kutcher in the eleventh season of Two and a Half Men

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

    A land of the outright bizarre
    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
    Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

    The worst kept secret in cinema

    A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
    Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
    Why do we have blood types?

    Are you my type?

    All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
    Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

    Honesty box hotels

    Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

    Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

    The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
    Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

    The 'scroungers’ fight back

    The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
    Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

    Fireballs in space

    Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
    A Bible for billionaires

    A Bible for billionaires

    Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
    Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

    Paranoid parenting is on the rise

    And our children are suffering because of it
    For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

    Magna Carta Island goes on sale

    Yours for a cool £4m
    Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn