Just Like Heaven (PG); <br/>Boudu Saved from Drowning (PG); <br/>Rize (PG)

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The Independent Culture

Just Like Heaven (PG)

Here comes the Christmas season's traditional romantic heartwarmer, and you'll require a constitution of steel not to feel a little queasy. Reese Witherspoon plays a workaholic doctor who's leaving hospital one night when her car collides with a truck. Next thing we know she's an amnesiac who's stalking landscape architect Mark Ruffalo, who seems to have set up home in her apartment.

By degrees the mystery is unravelled: Witherspoon is in a coma, you see, caught half-way between life and death, while Ruffalo, himself a lonely widower, is the man fated to try to save her from the plug being pulled on her life-support machine. Good grief. "My brain activity's decreasing every day," says a worried Witherspoon, and you may experience similar problems while sitting through this.

It's disappointing to learn that Mark Waters directed this; his previous credits on Freaky Friday and Mean Girls suggested an irreverent, acerbic wit that's a world away from such fey nonsense. One discerns the ghost of comic relief rising up whenever Ruffalo's slobbish pal (Donal Logue) enters the scene and revives the movie like a dose of salts. Alas, his screentime seems to have been shredded, and the script drifts along in a vegetative state.

Boudu Saved from Drowning (PG)

First released in France in 1932, this tale of a domestic imbroglio reveals its director, Jean Renoir, at his most relaxed and unemphatic. It addresses, without moralising, the problem of charity.

A bourgeois Parisian bookseller (Charles Granval) saves a tramp (Michel Simon) from drowning and takes him home. But the tramp, Boudu, proves to be anything other than grateful; he is an unregenerate slob who spills wine on the table and spits in the bookseller's first editions of Balzac. Quelle horreur!

Bearded, shaggy-haired and goggle-eyed, Boudu is a classic amoralist and a rebuke to the idea of the "deserving poor" - he refuses the charms of middle-class life and sees no point in ingratiating himself as the bookseller's pet. To audiences in the Thirties, raised on the cosiness of Chaplin's sentimental vagrant, such behaviour must have seemed almost revolutionary.

Renoir doesn't force the point, however, and uses his camera in a casual, unobtrusive manner, catching this or that character on the street, by the river bank, in a boat. His portrait of Paris is inadvertently shaded with melancholy, and the way he notices passers-by has a documentary vividness. As for Boudu, he surely qualifies as the most objectionable house guest in movies, just pipping the prize from Monty Woolley in The Man Who Came to Dinner.

Rize (PG)

David LaChapelle's documentary investigates the latest youth phenomenon to hit the streets of South Central, Los Angeles, a frenetic, body-popping dance craze known as clowning, or "krumping". It arose from the aftermath of the Rodney King riots in 1992, spearheaded by one Tommy the Clown, a reformed felon in whose honour its young adherents paint their faces and hold competitions.

Krumping is portrayed as a potential salvation from the diurnal grind of drugs and crime, though it seems that no one can be entirely safe in an environment where drive-by shootings are the norm. Towards the end of the film a 13-year-old girl is shot dead on the street, without rhyme or reason, and suddenly the latest dance moves look irrelevant next to the grieving of the girl's family. And the feeling of despair is only compounded when Tommy, returning from a dance night he's organised, finds his home trashed - the burglars knew he'd be out.

LaChapelle tries to be upbeat in the face of setbacks, though the music can get monotonous, and the mood oppressively sentimental.

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