Naked ambition

also showing; STRIPTEASE Andrew Bergman (15) ANTONIA'S LINE Marleen Gorris (15) THE GREAT WHITE HYPE Reginald Hudlin (15) THE INCREDIBLY TRUE ADVENTURE OF TWO GIRLS IN LOVE Maria Maggenti (15) GUANTANEMERA Toms Gutierrez Alea (15)
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The Independent Culture
With her artistic dance interpretations of the songs of Annie Lennox and her eagerness to get her kit off at a moment's notice, Demi Moore has come to fight for freedom and equality in Striptease. She plays Erin Grant, a woman wrestling her ex-husband for custody of their daughter. When the judge refuses her plea because she's unemployed, she does what any of us would do in that situation. She becomes a stripper. Sorry, I mean a dancer. Remember, anyone who calls Erin a stripper gets a brutal upbraiding from her minder Shad (Ving Rhames).

This atmosphere of reverence dogs our heroine like a bad smell. It's something that Moore carries with her. When her co-stars bare their bodies, it's a stark, prosaic act. But when Moore appears on stage, it is as Sally Bowles, under chiaroscuro lighting, and undressing becomes a statement of personal freedom, not financial desperation. The director, Andrew Bergman, even times the first shot of Moore exposing her breasts with a flash of light and a cataclysmic boom on the soundtrack, as though a glimpse of her body will bring about armageddon (in which case, anyone who has ever seen one of her films is doomed).

There's more. She'll only dance to Annie Lennox. And she won't put up with the club's crude logo because it degrades women. That's Demi the Feminist, who has conveniently forgotten that she works in a joint called the Eager Beaver.

Moore is the picture's ballast. When she finally attempts to rise to the snappy writing, her accelerated line deliveries aren't comic, just garbled. Everyone around her still has a whale of a time. Bergman, who also adapted the movie from Carl Hiaasen's more abrasive novel, sets up the simple sight-gags with relish (at one point, he cuts from a climactic battle to a shot of two strippers playing jump-rope with Erin's daughter, an incongruous cut worthy of John Waters).

Rhames makes his pauses as funny as his gags, and Burt Reynolds is hilariously sordid as the kinky silver-haired politician who nurses an obsession with Erin. You'll also spot Moore's own daughter, Rumor Willis, as Erin's moppet, a girl traumatised by seeing her mother strip. Not half as disturbing as seeing her act, though.

The sentimental Dutch drama Antonia's Line is about the invincible strength and unity of women, and how only sisterhood can defeat those rotters we call men. If you think we're back in Demi Moore territory, you're half right. The film displays as much psychological complexity and sexual maturity as Striptease, though it's more like Fried Green Tomatoes with subtitles.

Antonia (Willeke Van Ammelrooy) wakes up one morning and decides that this will be her final day on earth. Preparing for her extinction, she muses on her 80 years of life. None of the scenes which the writer-director Marleen Gorris summons from her heroine's past are illuminating, and they don't contribute to any sense of Antonia as a woman.

Instead, the film relies upon an itinerant structure; its scenes are linked by suffering, which is really no substitute for coherency and humanity. And Gorris invests little in her creations, a roll-call of eccentrics defined solely by their quirks - the loon who howls at the moon, the woman with an addiction to pregnancy. However, Els Dottermans displays considerable vigour as Antonia's daughter Danielle. She's the only one with blood in her veins, not kookiness.

This year, Antonia's Line was awarded the Oscar for Best Foreign Film, which at least proves that the Academy are willing to reward lousy film- making whatever language it's in.

The Great White Hype finds the boxing world in turmoil. No, Frank Bruno hasn't reversed his decision to retire. Audiences are down; the public's blood-lust is waning. The ostentatious promoter Reverend Sultan (Samuel L Jackson) decides that America is bored with seeing black fight black, and hunts for a white contender to challenge the heavyweight champ James Roper (Damon Wayans). He finds one in Terry Conklin (Peter Berg), who defeated Roper in an amateur bout a decade earlier, but now fronts a rock band.

The movie wants to be a satire about hyperbole and corruption, only it isn't very sharp. It wants to be a sassy sports comedy, only it isn't very funny. It does have a pair of subtle comic turns from Wayans and Berg as the bewildered pawns, but everything else is so ugly that the picture feels like a cartoon. With its pedigree (Bull Durham's Ron Shelton as co-writer) and its bite (jibes at political correctness draw blood), it could have been a contender. On the ropes is nearer the truth.

You don't need me to tell you what The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love is about. The young stars of this gentle lesbian love story, Laurel Holloman and Nicole Parker, give performances of immense vitality, and the writer-director Maria Maggenti displays an admirable aversion to cynicism. She also displays an aversion to brevity. Somewhere inside her flabby movie, there's a great short trying to get out.

Guantanemera should win its late director, Toms Gutierrez Alea, some new fans. It's a light road movie which follows a funeral cortege across Cuba. Although it doesn't add up to much, it bubbles with sweet-natured humour. Of course, you won't be able to shift the title song from your head. But better you hum that than anything by Annie Lennox.

n All films on release from tomorrow

RYAN GILBEY

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