SEEN LATELY

STEPHEN POLIAKOFF writer and director
I was very struck by Gods and Monsters: because it's a writer's film and quite verbose, and because it was bold to base a film around the gay director James Whale. Nearly everybody knows James Whale as a director, but he was an artist as well. The Frankenstein of the film was his creation, and he set the mode for Comedy Horror with films like The Invisible Man and The Old Dark House. Sir Ian McKellen performs brilliantly in Gods and Monsters, and it's a gigantic part - he should have won the Oscar. Lynn Redgrave is also wonderful; there aren't many characters in the film, but all the performances are good. It is a real, grown-up film, not geared towards 12-to-14 year-olds; surprisingly elegant, but not without the pain of the First World War. It has a rather beautiful resonance. James Whale had a very short creative life, retiring in his mid 40s. And as the film shows, it was a life of bitter-sweet isolation.

Life is Beautiful is a bold idea, and I can see why in Israel, and among Jewish movie-goers - and even as a Jew myself - you're grateful for the way it reminds the world of what happened. But even worse than the unreality of the film was Roberto Benigni's performance, which is so pleased with itself. What you got at the awards ceremonies is what you get in the movie.

I was really surprised that he won both awards, that he has been voted for by both Americans and English as best actor. I can't explain it. It is an enormous shame that Ian McKellen didn't get the Oscar. Awards are only important in the difference they make to careers; McKellen is an actor whose work is only coming to life now, and it is very exciting.

Stephen Poliakoff's play `Talk of the City' is broadcast on Radio 3 on 9 May.

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