FILM / A cloudburst and a heatwave

Singin' in the Rain (U). . . . . . . .Stanley Donen (US)

Body Heat (18). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Lawrence Kasdan (US)

British Film Institute. . . . . . . . .New Directors (no cert) Various (UK)

The Cutting Edge (PG). . . . . . . . . .Paul Michael Glaser (US)

NOT MANY films these days go around shouting 'Hooray for Hollywood'. The American cinema's vulgarity has also proved to be its vitality, its means of survival, but its practitioners rarely grasp that nettle. Films-about-film-making, like S O B, Postcards from the Edge, The Big Picture or Sweet Liberty, reflect with varying degrees of indulgence on the crassness and decadence of the industry, and even if some, like The Player, concede a sneaking fondness for it all the same, they whisper 'Hooray for Hollywood' in a slightly grumpy and grudging manner.

That's one reason why Singin' in the Rain, which celebrates its fortieth birthday this week, is exhilarating. Set in the watershed years of the late Twenties, it shows how various Hollywood players adjust to the new order - the film-within-the-film is a silent swashbuckler upon which are hastily grafted some song 'n' dance numbers as a concession to the coming of sound. No one harbours any delusions about the artistic integrity of The Dancing Cavalier. But no one despises it either: in this Hollywood, the people behind the dream machine delight in their craft and take it with the utmost seriousness.

Compare and contrast the opening sequences of The Player and Singin' in the Rain, the one prowling around studio offices chronicling the flat, businesslike origins of America's popular fantasies, the other viewing the movies at the point of consumption, at a star-studded premiere. The fans mill and scream, the flash-bulbs pop; the gossip columnists gush; it is all very frivolous, but nothing is held up to ridicule. And the movie folk - Gene Kelly's matinee idol, Debbie Reynolds' chorine, Donald O'Connor's clowning musician, even the gruff-but- kindly studio mogul - are propelled by love, not concupiscence; one of the big numbers, 'Gotta Dance', sums up that inner compulsion. It is all filtered through nostalgia, since Singin' in the Rain was made in 1952; like the - much more cynical - Sunset Boulevard (1950), it's an evocation of a Golden Age, written as the advent of television was about to herald Hollywood's decline into self- doubt, and perhaps self-loathing.

In an outstandingly poor summer for new films, the only other piece worth seeing this week is another revival, Lawrence Kasdan's Body Heat (1981), a perfectly executed film noir pastiche. It's set in the present, an oppressively hot Florida summer, but fortunately nobody seems to have heard of air-conditioning and the omnipresent fans and venetian blinds give the movie a potent period feel. William Hurt, sporting an odd little moustache, plays a horny small-town attorney who falls under the thrall of Kathleen Turner's gold-digger - 'You're not too smart, are you?' she purrs. 'I like that in a man.' The dialogue crackles (Kasdan was a former ace screenwriter); the story is intricately and satisfying plotted, although there's a jolting gear change at the end when the Hurt character, not previously noted for his acumen, suddenly and rather improbably delivers a speech unravelling the mysteries.

The film is playing as part of retrospective devoted to Hurt, an uncommonly subtle and detailed actor, but hardly an exciting one. I enjoyed Turner much more, and her character: how nice to see an elegant, restrained femme fatale in place of the crazed psychos who pass for villainesses in more recent fare such as Fatal Attraction, The Hand that Rocks the Cradle, Basic Instinct and Single White Female. Turner's subsequent career shows how few good roles are now available for smart, bad-ass women - apart from her work with Michael Douglas, it's thin stuff and her best fatale performance since has been as the voice of Jessica Rabbit.

Now in its fifth year, The British Film Institute's New Directors programme is meant to be a crucible of new talent and, although none of its alumni has yet emerged as a really top-flight director, it has always yielded an interesting haul. So it's disappointing to report that this package is a truly feeble batch. Most of the six films have coped with budgetary restraints - a ceiling of about pounds 27,000 - by keeping their focus small; not bad in itself, but there's a definite tendency towards introspective, indeed navel-gazing, single-character pieces, in which aimless dream and fantasy sequences (Rosebud, Mad Bad Mortal Beings, Shakti) stand in for narrative energy and substance.

Added to this is the heavy hand of positive discrimination - the programme is dominated by Asian, black, gay and lesbian people, brooding over their race or sexuality. But the fact is, as some American gay film-makers are discovering, that political correctness is often plain boring; these scenarios seem to have been chosen more for their minority credentials than their intrinsic interest, let alone entertainment value.

In Rosebud, one of the thinnest, a female painter observes the lesbian couple living next door, then gets herself a girlfriend at a local club. Is she coming out for the first time? - the 14-minute film doesn't even find time to pass on that information. If this were a hetero story, it wouldn't be accepted as a Jackie photo-romance. In Public Enemy Private Friend, one of the few films to display a sense of humour, three brothers lose one of their tickets to a Public Enemy gig. Their search for it turns into a genial Cook's Tour of the Brixton community. There's a colour and spriteliness that faintly recalls Spike Lee, although the director, Danny Thompson, is no Lee - he doesn't have Lee's story-telling confidence, or (fortunately, perhaps) his bile.

The most ambitious film is Capoeira, a documentary exploring the history of the Brazilian martial arts / dance form, and its mutation (atrophy?) into the stately Latin steps of its British version, Come Dancing (there are two directors, one English, one Brazilian). It's a meaty, sometimes ironic piece that could have done with a little more guidance in organising its argument.

But all of these films, however inadequate, are a thousand times more compelling than The Cutting Edge, a film about a temperamental figure-skating star (Moira Kelly) and a rough-trade ice-hockey player (D B Sweeney) who, following an accident, has to quit the sport. They become reluctant skating partners but - surprise] - the sparring conceals an irresistible mutual attraction.

The only thing that would have made this palatable in a mildly camp sort of way would have been the skating sequences. But these, choreographed by Robin Cousins, have been filmed in a blurry, over-edited style, with rarely a close, full-length shot (or even a foot and a face in the same frame). And you can forget the cunning little costumes: Sweeney is much too blue-collar to wear any of those nancy-boy sequinned numbers. Best thing in the movie: Roy Dotrice grinding out gutturals as the couple's salty middle-European coach.

See facing page for details of 'The Cutting Edge', 'Body Heat' and the BFI New Directors programme. The screening of 'Singin' in the Rain' at the Royal Festival Hall includes dance lessons for the audience. The film is released on video by MGM on 21 September.

(Photograph omitted)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
art
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in the first-look Fifty Shades of Grey movie still

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, centre, are up for Best Female TV Comic for their presenting quips on The Great British Bake Off

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

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.

    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

    Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell