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The Independent Culture
American History X (18)

Entertainment, rental HH

Peeved at the film's editing, director Tony Kaye wanted his name replaced by Humpty Dumpty's on the credits. Judging by the results, his sentiments were justified. American History X charts the transformation of Derek (Edward Norton) from a racist skinhead who leads gang raids on Korean shopkeepers to a peace-loving family man. Told through flashbacks - shot in black and white in case you can't tell the difference between Derek as a bigot or as a pacifist - the narrative is clumsy, and Derek's conversion is too rapid to be believed. It is Norton's brutal performance that saves the film from falling apart - just.

Solomon and Gaenor (15)

VCI, retail HH

The fact that it rains from beginning to end in Paul Morrison's picture will give you a clue as to the mood. In fact, this one makes Jude seem like a high-school romp. The events are set around a small Welsh village in 1911 and detail the doomed romance between a young Jewish door- to-door salesman (Ioan Gruffud) and a miner's daughter (Nia Roberts). While Solomon and Gaenor at least has the distinction of the being the first-ever Welsh-English-Yiddish love story, and there are good, restrained performances from Roberts and Gruffud, ultimately, the storyline will sap your will to live.

Elizabeth (15)

VVL, retail HHH

Shekhar Kapur's lavish film examines the metamorphosis of Elizabeth I (Cate Blanchett) from jolly teenager to sexless stateswoman, and charts her struggle to hold on to her royal title. Visually and aurally, the picture is a delight, with the unwieldy costumes rustling like knives being sharpened. Elizabeth's political development is also deftly portrayed, though her romantic entanglements are less convincing. Kapur's cinematic style is clunky - sinister figures move in slow motion while saintly ones are bathed in sunshine - but even with these faults, Elizabeth remains a cut above the average costume romp.

Pleasantville (15)

Entertainment, rental HH

Somewhere between Back to the Future and The Waltons, Gary Ross's feature debut starts out as a witty parable on the American dream. Two Nineties teenagers (Tobey Maguire and Reese Witherspoon) get magically beamed into a Fifties TV sit-com, where everything is clean, polite and grey. But their presence highlights the flaws in Pleasantville's orderly society and random dabs of colour start to appear in the monochrome set. Sadly, Ross uses these developments to hammer home his anti-racist message and the picture's subtleties are suffocated by his moralising tone.