Click to follow
The Independent Culture

Director: John Maybury

Starring: Derek Jacobi, Daniel Craig, Tilda Swinton

Derek Jacobi (below) gives a ferocious performance as Francis Bacon in this first feature from the acclaimed and adventurous experimental film-maker John Maybury. The picture (which Maybury also wrote) focuses on a defining period in the artist's life: his love-affair with the East End hard-man George Dyer (Daniel Craig). Through this relationship issues of power and control, sadism and masochism (by which the artist's social, as well as sexual, life was characterised) are explored. Being denied the use of Bacon's paintings has forced Maybury to be particularly resourceful, and among the film's many technical accomplishments are the blurred, twisted and grotesque visual compositions which transform simple images into thrashing flesh-storms which strongly evoke the artist's work.


Director: John Sayles

Starring: Federico Luppi, Damian Delgado, Tania Cruz (subtitles)

John Sayles, perhaps the most overrated director working in America, follows his biggest success (Lone Star) with this conscientious drama about a doctor who discovers that each of his previous students has met with a grisly end in an unspecified Latin American country. Sayles airs some intriguing ideas, but he seems consistently unable to animate any of them.


Director: Richard Donner

Starring: Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Joe Pesci, Rene Russo, Chris Rock

The presumptuous poster copy for this latest instalment of the ingratiating comedy-thriller series says it all: "The action you expect; the faces you love." In other words, you've seen it all before and you'll still come back for more. This time, Detectives Riggs (Mel Gibson) and Murtaugh (Danny Glover) are up against Triads in the counterfeiting trade, but a more pressing issue is their own middle-age. The screenplay acknowledges that this pair are not as nimble as they used to be, and makes room for a ripe new comic talent in the shape of the young actor Chris Rock as a suspiciously subservient cop. Rock apart, this is a largely joyless, automated ride.


Director: Gregg Araki

Starring: James Duval, Rose McGowan, Jonathan Schaech

Gregg Araki continues his investigation of apocalyptic modern America with this gory, tongue-in-cheek road movie about a couple who hit the road with a psychotic friend. Fun for the first half-hour, deadening for the rest.


Director: Doug Ellin

Starring: David Schwimmer, Jason Lee, Mili Avital, Bonnie Hunt

Yet another comedy about the male fear of commitment; and yet another film with nothing original to say on the matter. David Schwimmer (best known as Ross in Friends) plays a television sportscaster who falls in love with his best friend's editor (Mili Avital). But insecurity and claustrophobia intrude on their wedding plans until the groom-to-be feels compelled to test his new love's loyalty.


Director: Julien Duvivier

Starring: Jean Gabin, Mireille Balin (subtitles)

Long-overdue revival of this tender thriller, with Jean Gabin (below) as the underworld hero prowling the kasbah. There are shades here of what would flourish into film noir, but the driving force is the characters' need to escape, whether it is Algiers or simply the past from which they are fleeing.


Director: Mike van Diem

Starring: Jan Declier, Fredja van Huet (subtitles)

Mike Van Diem's intelligent but uneven drama about betrayal and revenge won this year's Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, and it certainly comes equipped with what the Academy adores: a solid story, spanning a considerable timescale and confidently told. It's the tale of a young lawyer who finds himself up against the iron will of his bailiff father at every turn. The picture is never as gripping as it should have been, though the foreboding Gothic gloom sits nicely with the grotesque compositions and a choice of physiognomically challenged actors that would make Jeunet and Caro swoon.

Ryan Gilbey