NEW FILMS

AMISTAD

(15) H

Director: Steven Spielberg

Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Morgan Freeman, Djimon Hounsou, Matthew McConaughey

Amistad is a pertinent example of the good Spielberg/bad Spielberg complex which

has been with us ever since the director made his self-consciously adult film The Color Purple in 1986. He had been out of control before, on the comedy 1941, but with

The Color Purple he invested so much effort into challenging the world's notion of him as a purveyor of disposable entertainment that he appeared more shallow and self-absorbed than he had ever done before, and ended up making one of his most superficial movies.

Amistad isn't quite that bad, but it is entirely without vision or purpose, unless Spielberg made it just to let us know that he thinks slavery is a jolly rotten thing.

The film opens spectacularly with the slave cargo of the ship La Amistad breaking free and slaughtering their captors in 1839. Spielberg takes their brutality out of context, depicting them as inhuman monsters, even denying them subtitles so that they remain alien to the audience. It's an interesting manipulation of perspective, but as the film progresses and we are encouraged to sympathise with the slaves, Spielberg loses his grip.

He can't find the middle ground between portraying these men as savages and eulogising them, so he gives them the same holy aura of wonderment that he applied to the aliens at the end of Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. It's inconceivable to him that these slaves were real human beings with foibles and bad habits equal to those of their white counterparts. In Spielberg's eyes, the dignity of suffering bleaches out a person's soul, so that they become unequivocally noble and pure. You may expect the main captive, Cinque (Djimon Hounsou) to heal someone's wound with a glowing forefinger like ET.

For Spielberg, the outsider is a catalyst of change, but not in the bitter, gritty sense suggested by Pasolini in Theorem, or Renoir in Boudu Saved From Drowning. In Amistad, the outsider is a saint whose primitive culture is light years ahead of western civilisation.

It's tempting to think that the film might have achieved more if it had either remained true to its original representation of Cinque as an untamed monster, or else aligned itself with him completely and adopted his perspective, subtitles and all. Now that Spielberg has his own production company, it is not so inconceivable that he should be able to show a black struggle from a black point of view, rather than filtering it through the experiences of the white men who defend the slaves.

DESPERATE MEASURES

(15) H

Director: Barbet Schroeder

Starring: Michael Keaton, Andy Garcia, Brian Cox

The boy who is going to die of leukaemia unless he can get a bone marrow transplant from the only match in the country - psychopath Michael Keaton - looks into the eyes of his father (Andy Garcia) and says: "Something went really wrong, didn't it dad?"

You could say that. Keaton has escaped without depositing his bone marrow, and most of the local police force are lying slain in hospital corridors. It isn't long into this absurd B-movie-style thriller that you start to sympathise with the grizzled cop, played by Brian Cox, who asks Garcia, "How many people have to die tonight so the kid of yours can live?"

Desperate Measures has none of the gleefully camp sparkle that you might expect from the director, Barbet Schroeder, though Michael Keaton gives good value for money as the lunatic who is so terrifying that even police dogs are scared of him.

THE EDGE

(15) HH

Director: Lee Tamahori

Starring: Alec Baldwin, Anthony Hopkins, Elle MacPherson, Harold Perrineau

David Mamet's screenplay for this intermittently thrilling tale of male rivalry feels about five years too late, peddling as it does a back-to-the-wilderness ethic that makes the film seem like an Iron John workshop. Anthony Hopkins is the billionaire who is stranded in the Alaskan wilds with fashion photographer Alec Baldwin, the man whom he suspects of coveting his young wife. They have to combine Hopkins' intellectual prowess with Baldwin's rugged masculinity in order to survive, but even once they have negotiated obstacles such as hunting for food and eluding a hungry bear, they must confront each other.

Like its characters, the film is half crazy and half compelling, with some especially fine locations in Alberta, Canada, providing the backdrop for a macho battle that becomes more intriguing the sillier it gets.

LA MAMAN ET LA PUTAIN

(18) HHHH

Director: Jean Eustache

Starring: Bernadette Lafont, Jean-Pierre Leaud, Francoise Lebrun, Pierre Cottrell, Jacques Renard

Jean Eustache's exploration of the confused souls of Parisian Bohemia arrives in a new print with freshly corrected subtitles in the original full-length three-hours-and-35-minute cut that caused such controversy upon its original release in 1973. It's a gritty but engrossing study of a young man called Alexandre (the outstanding Jean-Pierre Leaud), who flits between Marie, the older woman with whom he lives, and the younger Veronika, whose casual recklessness entrances him. Slowly, the film reels you in with its unsparingly honest portrait of the conflicting ideals and emotions of a lost generation. Revelling in the pretensions of Alexandre, but innocent of pretentiousness itself, this is an unexpectedly gripping and profound work.

THE UGLY

(18) HH

Director: Scott Reynolds

Starring: Paul Rotondo

An imaginative New Zealand-made horror movie about a psychologist who attempts to unravel the mind of a psychopath. The chilling metallic design of the sets is particularly impressive, as is the stylish editing which seamlessly blends past and present, fantasy and reality. See Wide Angle, p16.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Accounts Executive

    £14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for the ...

    Recruitment Genius: Team Administrator / Secretary - South East

    £14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time Administrator/Secreta...

    Recruitment Genius: Parts Advisor

    £16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...

    Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

    £27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Day In a Page

    Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

    The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

    How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
    Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

    Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

    'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

    How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

    Art attack

    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
    Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

    Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

    Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
    Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

    'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

    Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
    10 best wedding gift ideas

    It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

    Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
    Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

    Paul Scholes column

    With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
    Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

    Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

    Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
    Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

    Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

    The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
    Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
    Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

    Fifa corruption arrests

    All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
    Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

    The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

    In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

    Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
    Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

    How Stephen Mangan got his range

    Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor