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The Independent Culture
On Connait La Chanson (PG), to buy pounds 15.99

OTHER THAN the fact that its cast of middle-class Parisians lip-synch to French pop songs, it's hard to see where else Alan Resnais is honouring the memory of Dennis Potter, as he claims to with this enjoyable comedy of manners.

Only occasionally do the songs themselves offer more than the most facile of commentaries on the character's state of mind, which leaves only the dubious pleasure of the music itself. However, Resnais's tale of dashed hopes and desires does manage to coalesce into something more than the sum of its slight parts. The action revolves around the stalled lives of two sisters, and the men in their lives. The excellent performances help disguise the haphazard screenplay, as does the poise of the script. More than that though, the film reveals a sensitivity to the creeping self-doubt of middle-age.

The Apple (PG),

to buy pounds 15.99

Based on a true story and employing the family involved in its retelling, The Apple is a collaboration between Iranian film-maker Mohsen Makhmalbaf, who wrote and edited this film, and his 18-year-old daughter and director Samira. Confined to the house since birth by their jobless father and blind mother, two girls are finally freed by a welfare worker. The account of the girls' adventures on the streets of Tehran is beguilingly told, but the real attraction lies in the depiction of the parents, who have taken as literal the Muslim teaching that "a girl is like a flower; if the sun shines on her, she will fade". The authorities round on them, and while their actions have indeed been brutal, the Makhmalbafs invest a mythic quality to their predicament.