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La Vie Revee des Anges (18), to buy pounds 15.99

Erick Zonca's effortlessly complex and moving debut initially shapes up to be what it is emphatically not: an us-against-the-world tale of street pluck. A pair of young drifters, Isa (Elodie Bouchez) and Marie (Natacha Regnier), meet in a Lille sweatshop and quit their jobs to scrape by in the apartment Marie is looking after; its owner is dead and her daughter, Sandrine, lies comatose in hospital. The friendship between the combative, damaged Marie and the self-aware Isa develops in a series of low-key incidents, the only difference between the two being Isa's increasing identification with Sandrine through the girl's diary and vigils at her bedside.

Zonca, however, in observing this odd, last situation, gives it no more emphasis than he does the girls' flings with a couple of charming rock- band roadies.

With a pair of enchanting lead performances, the film portrays in minute detail the quiet erosion that Isa and Marie's relationship undergoes, undermined not just by the malign influence of the latter's new boyfriend, but by the drip, drip, drip of their dislocated lives. If this sounds unremittingly bleak, it isn't: perversely, a streak of optimism a mile wide runs through it.

Touch (15), to buy pounds 14.99

One suspects a couple of factors underly the decision to re-release Paul Schrader's 1996 screen version of Elmore Leonard's novel, neither having much to do with the film itself, primarily, the solid critical and box- office performance of Leonard adaptations over the last few years and, secondly, Affliction, the director's recent, partial return to form. As it is, it's not difficult to see why the po-faced Schrader is ill-suited to Leonard's melancholic wit - if you can think of the last time he intentionally raised a laugh, my name's Travis Bickle.

In Touch, an essentially mediocre film, sharp-dressing religious huckster Bill Hill (Christopher Walken) comes across a handsome, young ex-monk Juvenal (Skeet Ulrich) who has healing powers. Smelling cash, he deploys his former assistant, Lynn Faulkner (Bridget Fonda), to win over the imperturbable Juvenal.

Ulrich aside, the performances are good, Walken impressing particularly with an uncharacteristically desperate turn. Unlike Tarantino's Jackie Brown, though, Schrader fails to give Leonard's acutely drawn characters their due and neither does he, like Soderbergh in Out Of Sight, evince the down-at-heel cool to be found in the novels.

Mike Higgins

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