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The Independent Culture
Primary Colours (15), to rent from Monday

THE RELEASE of Mike Nichols's satire on contemporary presidential campaigning ought to have been as scandalous an occasion as the publication of the original roman a clef. Bill Clinton's real-life porkies, of course, stole a march on the film's chief selling point, the thinly-disguised inspiration for Governor Jack Stanton, a libidinous, silver-tongued presidential candidate. You can't blame Zippergate, however, for the film's disappointingly toothless attack on presidential politicking.

Travolta's indulgent turn as Stanton takes its cue from Elaine May's screenplay, which reduces an apparently irresistible political figure to a handshake, a grin and a roving eye. The caricatured portrayal of Stanton is quite at odds with the rest of a curiously tentative film. Emma Thompson turns in a superior performance as Stanton's put-upon wife, but Nichols mistakenly focuses on a mild-mannered campaign manager as a narrative device. Who cares about his ethical tribulations when the pathologizing of the US President, his character and his rocky marriage has become a global sport?

Marius et Jeannette (15), pounds 15.99

Pointedly set in L'Estaque, a run-down area of Marseilles, Robert Guediguian's delightful feature debut at first looks as if it's going to use its post- industrial setting merely as a gritty backdrop to the eponymous couple's relationship.

But the latter is just a single thread in the tapestry of the neighbourhood, a working-class community which bickers, romances and dozes the day away.

Lyrical directorial touches and a wry script ensure that the universal themes of class alienation and redundancy are subtly muted. It's the humanity, not the political context, that charms you.

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