The Week in Review

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The Independent Culture
OVERVIEW

THE FILM THE X-FILES

Horrific viruses, scheming extra-terrestrials and sinister government plots abound as director Rob Bowman brings David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, aka agents Mulder and Scully, to the big screen.

"No blockbuster worth the title courts anything less threatening than full-scale apocalypse, and The X-Files buys into this, though to little purpose," noted a disgruntled Ryan Gilbey. "Only those who remember the Ice Age are likely to be unsettled by the film's threat of global extinction." The Big Issue found it "beefed up beyond its natural weight: striving for conventional epic bulk when the original appeal always lay in its tight surrounds and character-driven drama," while Time Out muttered, "to the neophyte who wouldn't know The Cigarette Smoking Man if he asked for a light, it will make little sense." "The truth is out there all right - way off the screen," grumbled the Daily Mail. "Feast for conspiracy theorist, thinner diet for others."

A disappointingly incoherent plot shapes this extravagant version of the cult TV series, though the familiar Mulder-Scully frissons (they nearly kiss), glossy special effects and conspiratorial sub-text will no doubt satiate the X-File aficionado.

On general release from yesterday. Certificate 15. 122 minutes. You can also catch Mulder and Scully on video in Patient: X-File 11, priced pounds 14.99.

THE PROGRAMME THE PEOPLE'S PRINCESS

In anticipation of the anniversary of Diana's death, Kelvin McKenzie's dramatised account of the Princess's final year, on Channel 5. Starring blond bombshells Amy Seccombe, Rory Jennings and Freddy Sayers.

"Singling out the lapses of taste... would be as pointless as trying to detect fly spots on a cow pat," noted Tom Sutcliffe. "Kelvin McKenzie's debut as a television producer... was awe-inspiringly bad, a Grand Canyon of dramatic trash." "The Duchess of Malfi it was not," quipped The Daily Telegraph. "For two hours, actors rigid with embarrassment struck Madame Tussaud poses and recited lines which could have been cuttings from Hello!" "An unmissably tactless piece of tack that made Dynasty look like Dostoevsky - a kind of Royal Crossroads," expostulated the Evening Standard, while the Daily Mail warned "Stand by for more of the same as August 31 approaches."

A ludicrously naff (though unintentionaly hilarious) tribute to Diana, this appalling drama marks yet another calamity for the beleaguered Channel 5.

There are no more planned transmissions of Channel 5's drama. BBC tribute programmes include Diana: One Year On (5.50-6.30pm, BBC 1) and The Art of Diana (10.05-10.55pm, BBC 1), both on 30 August.

THE PLAY MR PUNTILA

In a co-production from London's Almeida Theatre and the physical theatre outfit The Right Size, Edinburgh veterans Sean Foley and Hamish McColl star in this slap-stick crash-course in Berthold Brecht.

"It's not often that you can write the words `Berthold Brecht' and `knockabout fun' in the same sentence," clamoured Paul Taylor. "With mad, penetrating eyes, distraught hair and a silly moustache, McColl's Puntila finds a perfect physical foil in the thicker-set, calmly subversive Foley." "An entertaining but also plonkingly didactic evening," dithered The Times, while the Daily Mail praised "a balletic, poetic production with jaunty, ironic songs and a facade of barn doors whose metallic structure collapses in an amazing scenic coup for the finale." Even The Daily Telegraph admitted that "there is inevitably a bitter political pill to swallow, but I have never known Brecht so beguiling... my po-faced disapproval repeatedly gave way to a good time."

Theatre de Complicite's Kathryn Hunter and The Right Size have transformed heavy-duty Brecht into well-observed and exuberant satire a la Morecambe and Wise. By far the best thing you will see at the Fringe this year.

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh (0131-228 3223) until 5 Sept. Then tours Everyman Theatre, Liverpool (0151-709 4776), 8-12 Sept; Oxford Playhouse (01865 798600) 29 Sept-12 Oct; Almeida Theatre, London N1 (0171-359 4404) 13-31 Oct

THE EXHIBITION PIOTR UKLANSKI

A controversial new exhibition by Polish artist Piotr Uklanski containing 100 photographs taken from Hollywood films in which male actors, from Terry Thomas to Marlon Brando, wear Nazi uniforms.

"Contemporary art rows abound, but this is a class apart," asserted Tom Lubbock. "It's hardly about Nazism at all except as stagy villainy in war films. It's a joke about cinema and acting. Here, in rows, are... top actors straining to personify evil: monocles, scars, cigarette-holders, brutish rage, icy sadism - no cliche is missed." "Modern art has a problem dealing with matters as serious as these. There is much to be learnt from this examination," rumbled The Times, continuing, "nobody who has seen the show can doubt that its ambitions are honourable enough." "His first British solo show evokes a brutal system of discipline" remarked The Guardian. "But Uklanski never answers his own question: should artists reproduce a fascist aesthetic?"

Less a glamorisation of fascism, Uklanski's show offers an interesting insight into the working lives of post-war actors. Exhibited in the gallery's cafe, the actors in the photographs appear more droll than dangerous.

Piotr Uklanski's Nazis is at The Photographers' Gallery, 5 Newport St, London WC2, until 12 September. For enquiries call 0171-831 1772. Mon- Sat 11-6; Sun 12-6. Free

THE ALBUM

Following their successful debut album Come Find Yourself, the New York rap trio release their much-anticipated second album, 100% Colombian, featuring their hit tribute to soul star Barry White, "Love Unlimited".

"[The band] finally pin down that air of consensual roguery in a way which Come Find Yourself never managed," praised Andy Gill. "Slinky and sensual, their laid-back funk grooves have a supremely relaxed persistence." "The group evoke the steamy flavour of New York streetlife without losing any of their goofy humour," applauded The Daily Mail. The Guardian disagreed:"Huey, Fast and Steve seem to have started taking themselves too seriously ... the result being some kind of nightmare three-headed Luther Vandross." "They've toned down the samplings, turned up the guitars and gone a tad deep on us," noted The Big Issue, but conceded, "Elsewhere Huey's street fables of murder, police chases and sex are pepped up with a blistering rock guitar."

Significantly more serious than their rumbustious first album, 100% Colombian reveals the Fun Lovin' Criminals to have matured a little too far beyond their years, though their tranquil rhythms and guitar-driven anthems are still as infectious as ever.

100% Colombian is released on Monday. The Fun Lovin' Criminals' first album, Come Find Yourself, is on sale now.

THE FILM GADGO DILO

The last in his award-winning gypsy trilogy, director Tony Gatliff follows the quest of a young Parisian, played by Romain Duris, to find Nora Luca, the gypsy singer his father listened to on his deathbed.

"There is a warmth and humour to the storytelling which makes redundant any accusations that [Gatlif] is packaging exotic images of a disenfranchised community for the delectations of Western cinema-goers," declared Ryan Gilbey. "Funny, enlivening, entertaining and moving," gushed Time Out, while The Times mumbled that it was "hard to dislike". "The film's leisurely approach is jarred by eventual melodrama, but if you want something different, seek it out," pronounced the Daily Mail. "[Gatlif] deserves all the praise he has recieved for his unsimplistic portrayal of Romanian gypsies," observed The Guardian.

Because of his own gypsy origins, Tony Gatliff's take on Romanian gypsys is refreshingly unpatronising. The film sheds light on a marginalised culture in an imaginative and absorbing way, infused with a healthy measure of pathos.

You can see Gadjo Dilo at London's Renoir, Brunswick Square, WC1. Subtitled. Cert 15, 101 minutes. For bookings and enquiries call 0171-837 8402. Other films by the director include Lacho Drom and Les Princes.

THE PLAY THE ROBBERS

The Glasgow Citizen's revival of The Robbers, Friedrich Schiller's first play, which helped shape European Romanticism. Directed by Philip Prowse, Sophie Ward and Benedick Bates are the hero and heroine.

"There's a stunt-like quality to the doubling that sits easier in farce than in the turbulent solemnity of Sturm und Drang drama," complained Paul Taylor: "listening to him [Bates] deliver two roles alerts you to a lack of vocal variety." "Prowse's admirable cast resists the temptation to send up a play that is undeniably melodramatic," said The Times. "But do they compel a 20th century audience to take Schiller more seriously? That is another matter." "The mighty, mental landscape of Schiller's play has been trashed," spluttered the Financial Times, while the Daily Telegraph snarled, "Philip Prowse's production stubbornly fails to catch fire."

Exacerbated by the cardboard acting, this florid revival fails to convey the sobriety of Schiller's play.

There are no more performances of The Robbers, but there are rehearsed readings of Schiller's The Maid of Orleans today at 2pm and Passion and Politics tomorrow at 2pm, both at the Queen's Hall, Edinburgh (booking: 0131-473 2000).

...ON

THE X-FILES

We asked cinema- goers coming out of the Brixton Ritzy whether they believed or not...

GARETH KELLY

28, social worker, South Norwood

`I enjoyed the series and the film was just as gripping. The question of who is in charge of what conspiracy was especially interesting.'

MIKE HUNT

20, student, Cardiff

`I thought it was slow and predictable. Same old rubbish - it does my head in.'

SIMON BUTLER

30, Sports Development Officer, Bristol

`Unusual in the way the characters interact. The tension between Mulder and Scully reminds me a little bit of "Moonlighting".'

MARK DAVIES

34, Box Office Assistant, Brixton

`The special effects were much better than in the TV series. They had a bigger budget. As always, it poses more questions than it answers, which is why people enjoy it so much, I think. If you didn't know much about the series, I think you would be very bored. But I enjoyed it.'

NICKY KEENAN

25, Graphic Designer, Balham

`It went on too long. It was just crap basically.'

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