Crash (18). Obsessive and audaciously faithful, David Cronenberg's adaptation of JG Ballard's notorious 1973 novel is at once poetic and ironic, clinical and passionate, deadpan witty and deadly serious. From the opening sequence, in which a glassy-eyed blonde is seen having sex against an aeroplane fuselage (the first of many scenes in which flesh and metal connect), the film is seductive without actually being erotic. James and Catherine Ballard (James Spader and Deborah Kara Unger) are a thrill-seeking couple who discover the orgasmic potential of automobile accidents when they (quite literally) run into a subculture of fetishists: Helen (Holly Hunter), the doctor who survives a head-on collision with James; Gabrielle (Rosanna Arquette), a crash victim in leg braces and fishnet stockings; enigmatic, scarred ringleader Vaughan (Elias Koteas), who specialises in restaging celebrity smash-ups. Neither exploitative nor cautionary, Crash resists easy categorisation. It is, however, an endlessly fascinating film and, in its perverse way, a deeply humane one, underpinned by Cronenberg's unique empathy for transgressive behaviour.

SubUrbia (15). Like his previous films - Slacker, Dazed and Confused, Before Sunrise - Richard Linklater's SubUrbia unfolds within a 24-hour period. Set in some depressing American Nowheresville, it centres on a group of disaffected kids who kill time by hanging out at a parking lot. One night, a high- school friend, now a reasonably successful rock musician, passes through town in a stretch limo, publicist in tow. The reunion inches the film towards melodrama. The contemporary US independent cinema is particularly skilled at capturing suburban anomie, and Linklater's film, based on a play by Eric Bogosian, approaches the subject with some wit. But the director has made little effort to mask the inevitable staginess.

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