Director: Phillipe de Broca
Sumptuous swashbucklers are fast becoming French cinema's stock-in-trade. This effort doesn't break much new ground, but is acted and shot with such magnificent braggadocio that its lack of originality is never a problem.
Fabrice Luchini makes a supremely oleaginous villain. Vincent Perez leaps hither and thither like a latter-day Douglas Fairbanks, while Daniel Auteil's character seems like a cross between Cyrano and D'Artagnan. He tends the abandoned young baby who soon blossoms into the beautiful Aurore (Marie Gillain). Who cares about the cliches when the storytelling is so vivid?
Curzon Mayfair, Richmond Filmhouse
GADJO DILO (15)
Director: Tony Gatlif
Stephane (Romain Duris), a young Parisian, tramps down a long, icy road, somewhere in rural Romania, on a quest for Nora Luca, the gypsy singer whose music he discovered through his father. After a drunken night with Izidor, an old man he meets crying and cursing in the snow, Stephane learns gradually about the habits, superstitions and, above all, the music of his gypsy hosts. There is a warmth and humour to the storytelling, and an integrity that pushes this film way beyond being mere sentimental travelogue.
THE LIFE OF STUFF (U)
Director: Simon Donald
A profoundly depressing Glasgow gangland drama. Performances and direction are pitched at such an overwrought level from the very first scene that the film doesn't have anywhere to go. The claustrophobic settings (almost the entire story takes place in a deserted warehouse) don't help. Nor does the melodramatic sub-John Barry music. Ewen Bremner and Gina McKee do their best as two hostages trapped in the basement, but the shock tactics (explosions, torture, ferocious bloodletting) do little but leave you numb.
Director: Philip Saville
In this suburban morality tale, Chris (Christian Bale) is festering somewhere in the commuter belt, playing happy families, when his old friend Tony (Lee Ross) thinks that he ought to be out having fun. Most of the film is set in the 1970s, but the period is not reconstructed with any great verve. There is plenty that's likeable - the late-1960s Paris interlude, in which Chris acts up as a Left Bank boulevardier, is very endearing. But back on home soil, the storytelling is less assured, and on the whole, Saville shows a dispiriting lack of ambition.
Metro, Odeon Kensington, Virgin Fulham Road, Virgin Haymarket
THE X-FILES (15)
Director: Rob Bowman
Fans of the X Files television series have been heard to complain recently that the show's itinerant approach to conspiracy theories had taken some of the novelty and lustre out of the subject. In which case, The X Files as it appears on film isn't likely to offer any compensation. But you can't deny that it looks splendid on the big screen: the director Rob Bowman and his director of photography, Ward Russell, have concocted some awe-inspiring compositions. David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson reprise their roles as FBI agents Mulder and Scully respectively, and the screenplay (by the series' creator Chris Carter) gives them a meaty conundrum to chew on, involving a shifty secret government, a deadly virus from outer space and the world's oldest living organism. Duchovny and Anderson are most engaging; through little dialogue and even less facial movement they manage to convey great tenderness.
ABC Baker Street, ABC Shaftesbury Avenue, Clapham Picture House, Elephant & Castle Coronet, Hammersmith Virgin, Odeon Camden Town, Odeon Haymarket, Odeon Kensington, Odeon Marble Arch, Odeon Swiss Cottage, Odeon West End, Ritzy Cinema, Virgin Chelsea, Virgin Fulham Road, Virgin Trocadero