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The Independent Culture
10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU (12)

Director: Gil Yunger

Starring: Julia Stiles, Larisa Oleynik

A canny riff on The Taming of the Shrew: re-titled, re-worded (teenybop slang standing in for rhyming couplets) and re-routed to the prom-night confines of an American high-school. And dashed if the ruse doesn't work. The script (by rookie writers Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith) is sharp and lively, winnowing all manner of spry sexual politics out of their reinvented tale of two chalk 'n' cheese sisters (one sweet and popular, the other harsh and intimidating) whose dating rituals are overseen by their meddlesome dad. Just as the similarly themed Clueless cannibalised Jane Austen's Emma, so 10 Things... effects a neat marriage of high culture and low to play Shakespeare as sitcom, as photo-story, as breezy teenage pop.

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ALL THE LITTLE ANIMALS (15)

Director: Jeremy Thomas

Starring: Christian Bale, John Hurt

Producer Jeremy Thomas' first stint in the director's chair results in a film by turns high-flown and bungled; an exotic mongrel mix of The Night of the Hunter, age-old fairytale and Green Party pamphlet. Christian Bale is the slow-poke runaway who gets ushered under the wing of John Hurt's crusty hermit, a self-styled undertaker for critters killed on the road. The playing is convincing, the mood at times intoxicating. But try as he might, Thomas can't help breaking the spell, can't help struggling to reconcile his eerie, allegorical spin with cinema's natural seeing- is-believing realism. A fascinating curio, nonetheless.

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BILLY'S HOLLYWOOD SCREEN KISS (15)

Director: Tommy O'Haver

Starring: Sean P Hayes, Brad Rowe

Tommy O'Haver's gay romancer surfs the romantic ups and downs of a goateed photographer (Sean P Hayes) who falls in love with his hetero muse (Brad Rowe), then loses him to the glitterati, then wins him back again. Cut to a bouncy rhythm of fantasy inserts, whirring camera motors and crisply volleyed banter, Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss is both a hard-and-fast thesis on "the heteros and the homos" and a fond Valentine to the glib romantic spectaculars of yore. So who cares if the plot's a tad trite and the characterisation a mite one-dimensional? This is postmodern pastiche, stylised homage. It's like that on purpose.

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TANGO (12)

Director: Carlos Saura

Starring: Miguel Angel Sola, Mia Maestro

Tango trades in the thrill of the dance. We get erect carriages, pursed lips, smouldering glances. We get dance as pose, as symbol, as an engine to resolve the tensions between - oh, you know - art and life and stuff. We get an ambitious meta-movie in which Miguel Angel Sola's anguished film director embarks on an affair with Mia Maestro's tangoing tigress, plus a flexible time-frame, plus a weighty, po-faced plot which threatens to split its trousers during its more gallant contortions. Meantime you gaze on in fretful admiration, marvelling when Tango gets away with it, wincing when it doesn't. Involved, if never quite swept away.

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THE TRAVELLING PLAYERS (15)

Director: Theo Angelopoulos

Starring: Eva Kotamanidou, Aliki Georgouli, Stratos Pahis

Theo Angelopoulos's restored 1975 epic spins its tale of an acting troupe at large in mid-century Greece in a languid, ruminative style. Its travels take the scenic route. It clocks in at close on four hours long. Stick with it, though, and The Travelling Players pays handsome dividends. The saga's operatic sweep and stunning imagery adding up to a powerful history lesson and a film that's at once intimate and expansive.

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