FILM: Rushes

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The Independent Culture
Less than six months after the demise of the Palace Group, former co-chairmen Steven Woolley and Nik Powell have returned to the fray, forming Scala Productions and announcing a package of new feature projects. First out of the blocks will be Hungry Heart, a thriller adapted from James M Cain's Galatea, to be directed by Bernard Rose and starring Virginia Madsen; shooting begins in the US next month.

Woolley explained how he and Powell have managed to return to production so swiftly: 'We were able to keep the production side separate from the other parts of the company - that was always a priority for us. The situation now is that Polygram (a Palace Group creditor) has agreed to pay our overheads, in return we have to deliver a certain number of films in a certain amount of time - it's what the Americans call a house-keeping deal.'

Also scheduled for this year is Backbeat, the story of Stuart Sutcliffe, the 'fifth' Beatle, to be and directed by Iain Softley. Plans for next year include Jonathan Wild, an 18th-century 'action thriller', directed by Neil Jordan; Dark Blood, a 'suspense thriller' set in Arizona, directed by George Sluizer; and History Is Made At Night, a comedy to be directed by Jim McBride.

News, meanwhile, of Palace's last filmed production, the future of which was unclear when the company was declared bankrupt. Neil Jordan's The Crying Game has been invited to participate in the Venice, New York and Toronto film festivals, and will be released in the UK at the end of October.

Last week's first preview screening of Woody Allen's Husbands and Wives, which - as everyone must by now know - tells of a college professor (Allen) who leaves his wife (Mia Farrow) for a 21-year-old student, did not disappoint viewers eager to see art colliding headlong with reality. Some of the lines - such as Allen's 'Why do I hear dollars 50,000 worth psychiatry dialling 911' as the student makes an advance - provoked laughter, while others - for instance, when Farrow asks 'Do you ever hide anything from me?' - were deemed too tragic in the light of recent events. Screenwriter Jeff Silverman summed up the general reaction, telling the Los Angeles Times, 'Here's someone who has given us a great deal of pleasure over the years so there's not a lot of glee to be had at his expense. It's like the screen has been removed and we're in their bedroom. It's not a place we feel comfortable being.' Others were more mischievous: 'All the publicity that's going on at the moment, I wonder if that is just to coincide with the movie,' suggested one businesswoman. Whatever, Husbands and Wives is already the most talked about film of Allen's career. TriStar are rush-releasing itin the US on 18 September, earlier then planned, to cash in on the publicity. What is not clear is how the case will affect Allen's longer- term popularity; The Hollywood Reporter told this week of public booing at screenings of a trailer for Husbands and Wives.

The best British film of last year was The Long Day Closes. At least that was the conclusion arrived at by the committee, whose members included BFI chairman-in-waiting Jeremy Thomas and the Times' David Robinson, which chose Terence Davies' autobiographical opus as the British entry for the European Film Award, to be presented in Berlin in December. Each country is allowed to nominate one film for the award; The Long Day Closes will be in competition with 29 other films including Amodovar's High Heels and Von Trier's Europa. Surprisingly, Ireland will not be represented at the awards; a spokesperson for the Irish committee explained that though plenty of films were made in the Emerald Isle last year, 'the films produced didn't have Irish directors, Irish producers, a majority or even substantial financing from the country.'