Respiro<br/>What A Girl Wants<br/>Monsieur Hulot's Holiday<br/>Van Gogh<br/>The End Of Summer<br/>Food Of Love<br/>Rugrats Go Wild

Sun, sea, sand ... and sainthood
Click to follow
The Independent Culture

Despite their essentially idyllic nature, there is a harsh quality to many of the islands in the Mediterranean. It's there in the glaring sun, parched ground and crude concrete structures, in the sometimes suffocating aridness. Time spent in such places can be a reverie mixed with mild panic.

Despite their essentially idyllic nature, there is a harsh quality to many of the islands in the Mediterranean. It's there in the glaring sun, parched ground and crude concrete structures, in the sometimes suffocating aridness. Time spent in such places can be a reverie mixed with mild panic.

Respiro (12A) captures perfectly such contradictions. Directed by the promising Italian Emanuele Crialese, it is set on Lampedusa, off Sicily, whose people rely on fishing for their survival. They are both charmingly at one with their environment, but also cruel: when the village's stray dogs escape from their gaol, they are shot en masse in the street.

The story centres on Grazia (Valeria Golino), a spirited young mother whose hedonism and independence put her at odds with the conservative community - not least her husband's family, who believe that she is mentally ill. When they threaten to send her to Milan for treatment, she goes into hiding in the coastal caves - prompting a collective soul-searching that is ready to turn her into a saint.

Crialese uses little dialogue, letting his images capture a world of primary colours - and primal instincts - bleached by the sun. It's an enigmatic, enticing film, that flits between holiday brochure intoxication (one more scene of sun, sea and scooters and I was ready to book) and melodrama verging on myth.

While American and British teenagers continue to be fed tosh like What a Girl Wants (PG), the "special relationship" is likely to exist between two men only - the rest of us separated by oceans of cliché and mutual misunderstanding.

Daphne Reynolds is a precocious American 17-year-old who has never known her father - an English lord who, apparently, rejected her bohemian mother. Deciding she wants to meet him, the girl flies to London and, before you can say "Cor blimy guvnor, bubble and squeak, Tower o' London, ducky", has ensconced herself in his stately home - which happens to be situated in the middle of a picture-postcard London where, if only, the Routemaster still reigns supreme.

This is the kind of excruciatingly by-the-numbers film where the English hero (Colin Firth, who needs to confront his typecasting) is repressed, his American daughter (Britney lookalike Amanda Bynes) is an individualist liberated by her Walkman, and the servants are either scoundrels or eccentrics; where, when the grandmother declares "No hugs dear, I'm British" she is told, "You rock".

If the current heatwave is too much for you, I would suggest you enjoy a vicarious vacation with the wonderful Monsieur Hulot's Holiday (U). Jacques Tati's1953 classic is uproariously funny, capturing in minute detail the pleasures, the tedium and the plain silliness of a family holiday by the sea.

Tati plays Hulot, his hapless but charmingly old-fashioned screen alter ego, who turns up in Brittany intent on savouring every resort experience - and trails havoc in his wake. Enchanting, endlessly inventive, and essential viewing in a summer when every day feels like it should be a holiday.

Maurice Pialat, one of France's most vigorous and interesting directors, and his estimable producer Daniel Toscan du Plantier, both died this year. As a tribute, we get to see again Pialat's masterful 1991 biopic, Van Gogh (12A). This is a leisurely-paced, but emotionally intense portrait of the last, prolific months of the artist's life. It's a ravishing film, but one which concentrates on the personality rather than the paint. Singer-turned-actor Jacques Dutronc, who has one of the most brilliantly hangdog faces in cinema, is perfectly cast as the painter.

The third of the week's re-releases, Yasujiro Ozu's 1961 film The End of Summer (U) is, like his best-known work Tokyo Story, a poignant study of Japanese family life. Here, the Kohayagawa's concerns about their ailing (though still comically gallivanting) patriarch are matched by their struggle to keep their sake business alive in the face of progress.

Food of Love (N/A) is a woeful tale of a young music student who dreams of becoming a classical pianist but, in the absence of talent, becomes a gay gigolo.

Unlike many animations these days, Rugrats Go Wild (U) is strictly for the kids - and only those who love to scream and shout.

Comments