Film: Video Watch
Thursday 03 September 1998
As a post-Mia PR exercise, Barbara Kopple's account of a European tour mounted by Woody Allen's jazz band adopts the warts-and-all, "do I not grumble about the room service like you?" school of biog-documentary. Allen exhibits a range of predictable neuroses - particularly, it transpires, in relation to bathrooms - and there are also moments of bumbling self- consciousness, clarinet in hand, before his adoring audiences. These bear a fleeting resemblance to his Seventies feature film personae, but this encounter between life and art does the man himself few favours. As grouchy as you hoped he wouldn't be, Allen, for instance, has to be cajoled by his partner Soon Yi merely to thank his band for their efforts after the opening concert in Madrid. However, as an apologia for Allen's relationship with Soon Yi, Kopple's film is revealing. When critics cited Manhattan, among other works, as a foreshadowing of his complex private life, they didn't know how right they were. Much like Tracy (Mariel Hemingway), Allen's teenage lover in the film, the young Soon Yi gives as good as she gets .
Pretty Village, Pretty Flame (18)
Available to buy, pounds 15.99
Srdjan Dragojevic's jumbled satire of the Bosnian conflict is something of an antidote to Michael Winterbottom's well-meaning Welcome To Sarajevo. In the latter, the shreds of decency seemed to have collected in the corduroy turn-ups of an outraged British war reporter. No such moral delusions trouble anyone here. Dragojevic's engrossing, complex portrait of a country's descent into civil war centres on the recollections of a hospitalised Serb soldier, Milan, who before the war had set up a business with his Muslim friend Halil. Much of what we see was filmed as the war raged, and the level of detail Dragojevic brings to the casual ethnic enmity of Milan's platoon - enjoying the spoils of their neighbours' looted houses as happily as they had once enjoyed their hospitality - reflects this sense of immediacy. Pretty Village... refuses to fall into a sulk, however, inflicting its death and violence on the audience with dark brio. Dragojevic is perhaps a little too ambitious - the flashback structure lends the film enough by way of irony; its central siege episode is an unnecessary attempt to add a bit of tension.
Double Team (18) Available to rent
There are certain videos that seem to exist solely for pubescent boys to undergo that late-20th-century rite of passage, the under-age attempt to hire a lurid 18-certificate release. See what you think: Jean-Claude Van Damme plays a disgraced spy packed off to a kind of half-way house where he won't get under anyone's feet. Nasty Mickey Rourke (that faint whistling noise is his plummeting career) has designs on Van Damme's family though. Enter Dennis Rodman, moonlighting from his basketball day job, as a gun dealer roped into helping Van Damme. The result is more than enough hammy violence, wild animals and hair tints to get 14-year-olds everywhere practising their basso profundo.
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