Cinema: What a swell party this is

Human Traffic (18) Justin Kerrigan; 95 mins Jean de Florette (PG) Claude Berri; 121 mins The Deep End of the Ocean (12) Ulu Grosbard; 107 mins Without Limits (12) Robert Towne; 118 mins Virus (18) John Bruno; 99 mins Vigo - Passion for Life (15) Julien Temple; 103 mins Crush Proof (18) Paul Tickell; 91 mins Citizen Kane (U) Orson Welles; 119 mins

Justin Kerrigan's Human Traffic is a film about being young, and not really liking your family very much, and hating your menial job, and taking ecstasy at the weekend, and feeling tons better until the next morning, when you feel a bit thin, and suddenly oh no it's Sunday, and Songs of Praise, and back to the grind. The film has been likened to Trainspotting, which is, superficially at least, inaccurate. Trainspotting was full of bile; but Human Traffic grins, and is oddly innocent - innocent because it largely concerns itself with happiness, and besides, you really do like the people in it.

Of course there are those who say that Human Traffic will encourage people to take ecstasy (I use "will" deliberately - the neurotic only ever talk in absolutes) just as there were those who felt David Cronenberg's Crash would galvanise people into whizzing up the M5 in their panties, hoping to meet an enormous van. These films are vilified because, while occupying an interest in the workings of people's minds, they do not hold their noses as they pass through the garbage. In fact, the garbage is what attracted the film-makers in the first place. They are films told from the inside, putting themselves right at the centre of the consciousness of their characters, full of the language of excitement. They are too authentic, too alive to both beatitude and peril to be either genuinely philosophical or dangerous. It's an entirely absorbing kind of baldness.

Human Traffic follows one night in the life of Jip (John Simm), a soft- hearted party animal. He loves his friends, especially the bolshy Lulu (Lorraine Pilkington). But his keen ecstasy habit has rendered him temporarily impotent, so Lulu and her effervescent hair and soft mouth are off limits. First, the build-up. The five friends sit in the pub. The boys wear big T-shirts, the girls are all glitter and catsuits and wisecracks. They are excited but nervous, drinking lager and smoking and gently bitching, waiting for the drugs to take effect. Next, the club. They dance like maniacs, "off their pickles, and feeling the music", certain that this night and this tone will go on for ever. Then there's the party, in some big house somewhere, full of people congregating around half-full packets of sweat-damp cigarettes, all voicing the babble of the chemically muddled. It's dawn and people are leaving. Horrible feeling. Those left behind are increasingly cold in their skin, lapsing into fretful silences, suddenly wanting "a warm bed and a friendly therapist" more than anything in the world.

Kerrigan's film is very frank, particularly in its blatantly derivative moments. At one point, one character comes up with a whole new meaning to Star Wars, in a scene lifted almost intact from a film called Sleep With Me, in which Quentin Tarantino did a turn as a drunk git at a party proving categorically that the film Top Gun is passionately homo- erotic. There's also a fantasy documentary sequence, featuring a very straight reporter walking into the club and observing with removed fascination these kids and their chat and moves, just like the episode on the made- up drug "cake" on Chris Morris's Brass Eye.

And the hyper, in-your-face style of cutting and character introduction is indeed just as in Trainspotting. But all these moments, these films, these characters, are favourites of clubbers, so to parade them here is just like a series of in-jokes, intended purely for those who inhabit the arena of this film. It is made for and about the party scene.

Human Traffic considers the well-documented troubles that can attend the regular use of ecstasy. Two characters are sexually poleaxed, two become increasingly paranoid; and the film manages to speak frankly of these problems as very much in the nature of the drug. It's clear that the side-effects are not in the least bit separate. They come complicatedly hand-in-hand with the obvious fun to be had: high as a kite, feeling like Isabelle Adjani in love with Ryan O'Neal, and just as beautiful.

Like the drug it half-toasts, half-worries over, Kerrigan's film is wholly hedonistic - there to be used and kissed goodbye. If ecstasy is a drug taken to provoke a sense of community (however cock-eyed) this film does too - it premiered last weekend to a crowd of 40,000 at the Heartlands Festival. It is the only film about drugs worth seeing because it impulsively and wittily beats its fists against boring, specious, carping society. And it's never naff.

Claude Berri's 1986 odyssey Jean de Florette has a re-release this week, thanks to a new print. It is the story of a hunchback (Gerard Depardieu) and his family trying to scrape a living on their new land in Provence, unaware that Cesar, their neighbour (Yves Montand), and his half-witted nephew have blocked up their spring. The film is a poem to colour. Everything is red and green and gold - the trees heavy with sunrise, the twilight the colour of melons and willows.

What struck me again and again was the clarity of Depardieu's face. He has never looked so open, so present. His skin is paler than everybody else's - his character is from the city, and yet to be cooked by the land - and this paleness lends him an immaculacy. There's always the sense of his being artless, and so destined to anger the earth-devil, with all his trust and optimism. The whole thing is sublime.

The Deep End of the Ocean really belongs on the television, since its subject-matter is the kind that usually comes in two parts, spied when doing the ironing. Michelle Pfeiffer plays a mother whose middle child, Ben, is snatched from a hotel lobby. Nine years later, she is just about able to cope with missing him; but the experience has scarred the equilibrium of her remaining children, particularly her eldest, Vincent, whose last words to his little brother were "get lost". One day, she spots a boy mowing lawns. He is plump and happy-looking. Pfeiffer is convinced he's Ben. This film works on a very simple level - what to do when you're left holding the cinders? Pfeiffer is particularly good. She does harassed very well, as though determined to establish that she too knows how it is to be busy, heaped- up and coiled, a woman with no time to glance at the mirror and see such perfection staring back.

Without Limits is the second bio-pic to be about the 1970s American long- distance runner Steve Prefontaine. It is an old-fashioned but likeable piece of work. Prefontaine loved to run up at the front and as fast as possible. He didn't appreciate any advice about technique from his coach Bill Bowerman, who went on to found Nike, with the shoes he hand-modelled for Prefontaine using a waffle-maker. Prefontaine was troublesome and handsome, his shoulders and high-school thighs and round face transfigured by speed. He died very young, but just who he was as opposed to how he was remains a mystery.

The premise in Virus is canny enough; but what follows is rot. An alien arrives on a seabound Russian science vessel. It has no real form, but starts building itself a "body" out of the electronic goods scattered about the ship. Soon, tiny worker-gadgets are building like crazy, and using members of the crew as spare parts.

Enter Donald Sutherland (brandishing, it seems, all the film's hopeless superficiality) as the captain of a passing ship. He always wears his cap at a jaunty angle, even after he's been chopped up and turned into something scary with cameras for eyes.

Vigo - Passion for Life tries to tell how the French cineaste Jean Vigo (1905-1934) got to be so skilled and so unorthodox. Naturally, love must come into this, so we have Vigo (James Frain) romancing Lydu (Romane Bohringer) in an Alpine sanatorium, then it's off to Nice for sex, and Paris for hunger. Julien Temple is clearly enraptured by his poetic protagonist, but is let down by his cast of foolish characters and an excruciatingly mediocre script.

Crush Proof is an entirely manic film about a young Irish ex-con who finds himself and his gang of north Dublin pony kids involved in a heap of improbable dramas, ranging from accidental death to inter-family loathing. The film is chaotic and abrasive. And Orson Welles's monomaniacal, perfect Citizen Kane gets re-released this week. This is a film I'd like to write loads about or not at all. Not at all, then.

'Citizen Kane': see David Thomson's Film Studies, opposite

Gilbert Adair returns next week

Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne with his Screen Actors Guild award for Best Actor

film
Arts and Entertainment
Rowan Atkinson is bringing out Mr Bean for Comic Relief

TV
Arts and Entertainment

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment
V&A museum in London

Art Piece taken off website amid 'severe security alert'

Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Arts and Entertainment

Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated

Arts and Entertainment
Damian Lewis shooting a scene as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall
TV

Arts and Entertainment
A history of violence: ‘Angry, White and Proud’ looked at the rise of far-right groups

tv

An expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle

Arts and Entertainment

art

Lee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Keaton in the 1998 Beetlejuice original

film

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Kitchen plays Christopher Foyle in ITV's 'Foyle's War'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Downton Abbey star Joanne Froggatt will be starring in Dominic Savage's new BBC drama The Secrets

Arts and Entertainment
Vividly drawn: Timothy Spall in Mike Leigh’s ‘Mr Turner’
film
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.

    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project