Arts and Entertainment

(15) Dir. Joel Coen + Ethan Coen; Starring Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, 105mins

Where Alec Guinness meets his end

Castles and churches come and go, to be replaced by car parks and Arndale Centres. Changing Places is an occasional series which will draw on old paintings, maps and photographs to show the fleeting face of Britain. The first is the King's Cross railway bridge, famously featured in the Ealing film The Ladykillers. By Andrew John Davies

ARTS 1996

It was the year of Cezanne at the Tate and Oasis at Maine Road; of `Moll Flanders' and `Emma', `Trainspotting' and `Our Friends in the North'. And here, in time-honoured tradition, our critics pick their people and productions of the past 12 months. The envelopes please ...

At a cinema near you

Eight million people in Britain watch movies every month.

How not to solve executive stress

FILM

Bordering on the vacant

Fargo, Joel Coen: The Coens' 'Fargo' disregards thriller conventions an d exhibits the brothers' sophistication. So why can't they empathise with their human creations?

Ryan Gilbey on film

I'm not a "lists" person. But do you realise just what an incredible four-and-a-half months of films we've had? It's like 1972 or something. (How fitting that The Godfather is being re-released in July.) It may not be cool to get this giddy about a year when you're not even halfway through it. But even if 1996 doesn't produce another single frame of the remotest worth, it should still go down as the richest year of the decade so far. I can't remember ever feeling quite so happy to hand over my seven quid.

Behind the scenes

You can probably recall the scene, against the atmospheric backdrop of a seething, darkly gothic cityscape a solitary tiny old lady (right) potters along a gloomy street to the door of her lace-curtained cottage. The Ladykillers is one of those classics of British cinema whose location perfectly conveys the black comedy's sense of impending - albeit unrealised - menace. But where was it filmed? A new exhibition at the Museum of London reveals all. "London on Film" examines the hundred years of film-making in the capital. While The Ladykillers was in fact set in a now demolished part of north London, other areas of the city have masqueraded as more exotic locations. Who would have guessed that the St Petersburg recently seen on screen in Goldeneye was in reality the classical frontage of Somerset House in the Strand or that the 1946 version of Great Expectations made inventive use of the ruins of the bomb-damaged City. Similarly, during the 1930s, motorists on London's new North Orbital ring road would have caught tantalising glimpses of the Indian Raj settings in North West Frontier and the space-age city of Things to Come at Denham Studios.

Allen comes out shooting blanks

Woody Allen's Bullets Over Broadway is his first film conceived and completed since his bruising battles with Mia Farrow. Adam Mars-Jones sees signs of strain

Four Weddings and a happy ending?

Michael Kuhn has a dream: to make PolyGram Europe's only film studio. M ike Newell's Four Weddings and a Funeral brought box-office success, but what's next?

On cinema

The Hudsucker Proxy (right) is one of those films you go along to and watch - stare at, actually - and then stagger out knowing that you couldn't possibly have seen the same film as the reviewers. You know, the reviewers who couldn't understand why this 'witty' film with its multifarious references to Capra, Hawks and Katie Hepburn had done the brick stroke at the US box-office.

Directors' Cut: Funny peculiar: Ethan and Joel Coen on the brilliant absurdity of Roman Polanski's horror comedy, The Tenant

Sometimes, when we're talking to each other about someone unsavoury, we use a line from Roman Polanski's The Tenant (1976) to describe them. Referring to his landlords, the character played by Polanski in the film says 'These people are monsters - they play football with human heads.'

FILM / Riding high on a pratfall

LEAVING the board takes on a new, more acrobatic meaning in The Hudsucker Proxy (PG), when Waring Hudsucker, chairman of Hudsucker Industries (motto: 'The Future is Now') resigns. A look that contains both ecstasy and regret, but which is a little too far gone for either, plays on his jowly face as he listens to another profitable year's results read out to his directors. When it is time for him to go, he doesn't make a song and dance about it. More of a soft-shoe shuffle: he steps on to the boardroom table and comes as close to a jig as his stately bulk and the table's polish will allow. Then he bows out - of the window. The last we see of him are his pin-stripe trousers, billowing and flapping like flailing wings, as he travels the 44 floors down to the pavement. Back at the top, the eulogies are immediate and apt. 'Every step he took, he took up,' someone recalls. 'Except, of course, this last one.'

FILM REVIEW / Paper over the cracks: It's described as a comedy, but who's getting all the jokes? Adam Mars-Jones on The Hudsucker Proxy

The seed from which they germinated Miller's Crossing, according to the Coen Brothers, was the image of a hat in the woods, blown by the wind. The corresponding seed for The Hudsucker Proxy (PG), an infinitely superior movie, might well have been a piece of newspaper blown along the street, refusing to be abandoned by the man who has just thrown it away, wrapping itself doggedly round his leg. A piece of paper with a circle drawn on it, meaning everything and nothing.

FILM / Production Notes: Mike Boudry of the Computer Film Company on how he pushed Tim Robbins over the edge

THE MAIN sequences we worked on were the two scenes in which Charles Durning and Tim Robbins jump from the top of a high skyscraper. One thing that's a bit different about these special effects is that they're very long. Often, film effects last just a few seconds, so that it's all over before you get a good chance to look at them.

Edinburgh Festival 1994: Cinema

To Live (Filmhouse 1, 031-229 2550, 14 Aug). Zhang Yimou's latest is about stoicism and revolution, one man's resilience in the turmoil of China between the 1940s and the present day. With another luminous performance from Gong Li, Zhang's leading lady from Ju Dou onwards.
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