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TWENTYFOURSEVEN

(15) HHH

Director: Shane Meadows

Starring: Bob Hoskins

The young British film-maker Shane Meadows attracted some over-enthusiastic praise last year for his short film Smalltime, but with TwentyFourSeven he graduates to full-length form and shows himself just about capable of meeting the necessary demands. Shot in black and white, with images ranging from the poetic to the crassly symbolic, the film occupies a stylistic middle ground which might be described as romanticised realism. Bob Hoskins plays Alan Darcy, a Midlander who starts a boxing club to quell the neighbourhood hooliganism and give the lads something to believe in. As the picture opens with Darcy living rough in a derelict railway carriage, it's clear that his dream went awry somewhere along the way, a realisation which lends a sour undertone to the frequently sentimental story which follows

MOTHER AND SON

(U) HHH

Director: Alexandr Sokurov

Starring: Gudrun Geyer, Alexei Ananishnov

To consume films in the late 20th century is to be mollycoddled. The dominant cinematic culture is definitely narrative-oriented, probably American and largely tailored to fit specific demographic profiles. It can hardly prepare you for anything which exists beyond the parameters it has defined. A film such as Alexandr Sukurov's Mother And Son is likely to provoke in the viewer the bafflement of the monoglot who encounters a foreign language, only to find that the sounds and rhythms have an intriguing texture irrespective of meaning. In other words, even if you're not sure what is being said, you can respond to the lilt of this exotic voice.

The dialect may be familiar: Sukurov counted Tarkovsky as a friend and contemporary, and there are echoes of that director's austerely reflective mood and symbolic flourishes in Mother And Son. The film is too ephemeral to qualify as a profound piece of work, but its haunting sensuality is unlike anything else in modern cinema. It takes place during the last day of a woman's life, as her adult son cares for her at a shack in the countryside. Her son carries her through the surrounding forests, pausing to let her rest on a bench or lean against an oak. A vast cornfield is disturbed by the wind; shadows sharpen on a tree trunk; in the distance a train comes and goes, trailing a plume of steam and tooting feebly.

In narrative terms, nothing actually happens. And yet, everything is happening - a woman is preparing for her death; a man is attempting to adjust to a world that is hostile and forbidding without the person who brought him into it. Rather than making these events explicit, the picture employs subtle evocation - it's a cinematic tone poem set to the sound of human breathing, the crackle of fire, the tide lapping the shore. I found its visual presence highly arresting. It's the world, but not as we know it.

ANASTASIA

(U) H

Directors: Don Bluth and Gary Goldman

We remain in Russia for the new animated feature Anastasia, though all geographical identity has been jettisoned along with historical accuracy - and, for that matter, sanity, logic and good taste. The Russian Revolution is nothing more than a convenient, ready-made backdrop for the disappearance and later discovery of the long-lost Princess Anastasia. You always try and ignore those suspicions that Don Bluth is merely a bargain basement Disney, because at least he sometimes tries to tone down the bombast. But Anastasia is as bullying and unruly as Disney animation at its worst.

LES VOLEURS

(18) HH

Director: Andre Techine

Starring: Daniel Auteuil, Catherine Deneuve

Intriguing and complex French thriller with the fine Daniel Auteuil as a seedy cop who becomes involved with a case implicating a teacher (Catherine Deneuve) and her lover.

DOUBLE TEAM

(18) H

Director: Tsui Hark

Starring: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dennis Rodman

Typically ludicrous Jean-Claude Van Damme action adventure. The pretty vacant kickboxer here plays a spy who wants out of his profession, but bodges a job and is consigned to a no-man's land for agents too deadly to set free but too valuable to kill.

BEST MEN

(15) H

Director: Tamra Davis

Starring: Sean Patrick Flanery, Drew Barrymore

Picking up their best friend after his release from prison, four pals think it's going to be an easy ride from jail to the altar, where they're driving the ex-con to his wedding. But then one of their number makes a pit-stop at a bank and this inane comedy lurches into stale heist-gone- wrong territory.

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