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TWILIGHT OF THE ICE NYMPHS

(NC)

Director: Guy Maddin

Starring: Shelley Duvall, Alice Krige, Pascale Bussieres

A whimsical fairy-tale for adults that is alternately beguiling and infuriating. The film seems to be unfolding in the mind of a recently released prisoner who comes to stay with his sister (Shelley Duvall) on her farm. Sis is putting the moves on an amputee doctor who talks like a Chekhov parody, while her brother is lusted after by woodland nymphs and nymphomaniac princesses. The picture doesn't make any logical sense, nor is it supposed to; and as a trawl around in fairy-tale iconography, it's the sort of thing that the Brothers Quay do much better. But I was occasionally taken by its stylised sets and some haunting Cocteau-influenced imagery.

DIFFERENT FOR GIRLS

(15)

Director: Richard Spence

Starring: Rupert Graves, Steven Mackintosh, Miriam Margolyes, Saskia Reeves

Different for Girls has been kicking around for a few years now (it was once titled Crossing the Border) which is usually a bad sign with a film. But while this British comedy-drama is no masterpiece, it offers an engagingly bright perspective on a subject - transsexuality - rarely touched by cinema. Two old school-friends meet up. Paul (Rupert Graves) is much as he was 15 years ago: a sweet-natured lad into late-70s punk and new wave. Karl (Steven Mackintosh), however, has changed. He's now a she - Kim, a post-operative transsexual keen to resume the friendship that was begun at school. Paul isn't so sure - "I'm straight!", he protests when an evening out almost ends in a goodnight kiss. "So am I,", sighs Kim.

The writer Tony Marchant has plenty of experience with plaiting together multiple narrative strands (he was recently responsible for the excellent BBC2 series Holding On), and there's some neat integration between Kim's story and that of her sister (Saskia Reeves). The screenplay has its flaws - too much time is spent keeping Kim and Paul apart, while Kim's transsexuality appears to have given her magic healing powers when it comes to sorting out her sister's problems.

However, this is largely an intelligent, refreshing work enlivened by two touching central performances by Mackintosh and Graves.

Ryan Gilbey

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