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
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Arts and Entertainment
The teaser trailer has provoked more questions than answers
filmBut what is Bond's 'secret' that Moneypenny is talking about?
Sport
footballDoes Hodgson's England team have an identity yet?
News
news
Sport
Lewis Hamilton secured his second straight pole of the season
f1Vettel beats Rosberg into third after thunderstorm delays qualifying
Travel
travel Dreamland Margate, Britain’s oldest amusement park, is set to reopen
News
Founders James Brown and Tim Southwell with a mock-up of the first ever ‘Loaded’ magazine in 1994
media
News
Threlfall says: 'I am a guardian of the reality keys. I think I drive directors nuts'
people
Voices
voices The group has just unveiled a billion dollar plan to help nurse the British countryside back to health
  • Get to the point
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

    Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

    £32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

    Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

    £18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: New Lift Sales Executive - Lift and Elevators

    £35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A challenging opportunity for a...

    Day In a Page

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss