New films: The Nazis' camp was never like this

BENT Sean Mathias (18)

UN AIR DE FAMILLE Cedric Klapisch (15)

MRS DALLOWAY Marleen Gorris (PG)

KISS THE GIRLS Gary Fleder (18)

The first 15 minutes of Bent, Martin Sherman's adaptation of his own 1979 play about the persecution of gays in Nazi Germany, have a woozy, seductive rhythm that's undoubtedly helped by the almost complete absence of dialogue. The setting is a sprawling outdoor nightclub in Thirties Berlin, populated by fishnet fascists, bald transvestites and lounge lizards, all of them united by the common pursuit of sex and drugs. Like your average works do, really, only with the added bonus of being presided over by Mick Jagger, swinging on a trapeze and dolled up like Ena Sharples, which may just be the consummate symbol of decadence.

Swanning around, and snorting cocaine through a rolled-up Deutschmark note, is the dapper Max (Clive Owen), who brings a pretty blond soldier home with him, to the dismay of his lover, Rudy (Brian Webber).

It's around this point, as the Nazis move in on Max and drag him off to Dachau, that the film's focus blurs. The keen cinematic sensibility of that opening sequence is rejected, as the director Sean Mathias chooses to honour his picture's theatrical roots by fixing the camera on Max and his fellow prisoner Horst (Lothaire Bluteau), and staying with their hard labour rituals every torturous step of the way.

Although Max and Horst's attempts to defy their imprisonment by creating a sexual relationship purely through language results in one starkly touching scene, the performances are generally too mannered to be truly affecting. And the film comes unstuck when it attempts to promote a hierarchy of suffering, arguing that the distinction between the treatment of gays and Jews at the hands of the Nazis was broad enough to be notable. I started to lose patience at this point, and fondly imagined that Jagger was going to make a dramatic return on his trapeze and save the day.

Un Air de Famille is also an adaptation of a stage play, and while it displays its origins all too clearly and can't boast the appearance of anyone on a trapeze, let alone Mick Jagger, it does have the benefit of a spiky sense of humour - the slow-burning absurdity of some of its dialogue can make a giggle snowball into a belly-laugh even before you've realised it's happening. The scenario is a gathering in a family-owned restaurant - the wonderfully named Sleepy Dad's Cafe - in which the family concerned bash out all their old grievances and jealousies, with the charmingly dippy waiter (Jean-Pierre Darroussin) watching from the sidelines.

The tone is sometimes reminiscent of Mike Leigh at his broadest, though the film makes few claims to reflect reality, and only really falls on its face when it tries to get serious. Top marks for the writers' persistence with some gleefully tasteless dead dog gags, and for the marvellous scene where a man calling to his wife, who won't come out of her flat, is assisted by a bunch of street urchins contributing cries of "Yo, bitch!" to his desperate serenade.

There's something ingratiating in the way that Marleen Gorris, who has directed the film of Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway, approaches her material: she trivialises everything she touches, and sucks the passion out of it. Perhaps she is too straight-faced about the hackneyed devices she uses: wistful music and close-ups on an entranced face to signify an upcoming flashback, or the camera making a sudden lurch towards spiked railings to let us know that someone has just committed suicide. Watching her films is like flicking through someone else's family album at a dizzying speed: not only are the people pictured foreign to you, but you can't make out their faces anyway.

As the melancholy Mrs Dalloway, whose memories prompt vague thoughts of mortality, Vanessa Redgrave is haunting, and nicely complemented by Rupert Graves, whose performance as the shell-shocked soldier Septimus has a poignant little-boy-lost sweetness. A film of occasional poetic moments, tacked together as if by a bricklayer.

The serial-killer movie has been part of the cinematic landscape for so long now that it's hard not to feel a faint sense of comfort when faced with another deranged psychopath who makes household ornaments out of his victims' extremities; he's as much a part of our extended fictional family as the hooker with a heart. That could account for the total lack of suspense in Kiss the Girls, or it may be because the makers haven't bothered to add anything original to the pile of stolen ideas which they have assembled, looting everything you can think of, including Seven, Nighthawks, The Silence of the Lambs and No Way to Treat a Lady.

Even Morgan Freeman seems to be parodying himself as the forensic psychologist who joins the hunt for the serial killer who has abducted his niece. Assisting him is Ashley Judd as a kickboxing surgeon - no, really - freshly escaped from the murderer's clutches.

Many questions occurred to me while watching the film, not least why psychopaths in the movies always cover their bedroom walls with newspaper clippings detailing their crimes. If you don't know what to buy the serial killer in your life this Christmas, I'm sure he could use a scrapbook and a few rolls of wallpaper.

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Gabriel Agbonlahor, Alexis Sanchez, Alan Pardew and Graziano Pelle
footballAfter QPR draw, follow Villa vs Arsenal, Newcastle vs Hull and Swansea vs Southampton
New Articles
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
New Articles
i100... with this review
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
New Articles
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Cover Supervisor

    £75 - £90 per day + negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Are you a cover supe...

    Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

    Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

    £22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

    SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

    £1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

    Day In a Page

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam