Arts and Entertainment

(15) Dir. Scott Cooper; Starring Christian Bale, Woody Harrelson, 117mins

Jaded instincts

Cinema: Controversy has often surrounded Joe Eszterhas, writer of 'Basic Instinct', but his career has gone from strength to strength. The release of 'Jade' and 'Showgirls' may change that. Quentin Curtis asks where it all went wrong

TICKET OFFER: BLOWN AWAY

Having proved itself to be a rental hit, the action blockbuster Blown Away will be available from MGM/UA Home Video from the 28 August. Centred around the Boston bomb squad, the film stars Jeff Bridges as the squad's top disposal expert who comes up against Tommy Lee Jones, a brilliant but insane terrorist.

Faint hearts at the OK Corral: 'Wyatt Earp' - which may turn out to be the costliest flop of all - reeks of compromise

THE LEGEND of Wyatt Earp (15) is the legend of America. The country, like the man, started fresh and idealistic, before being brutalised by violence, which it turned out to have a talent for. Lawrence Kasdan's new three-hour version of the story makes its intentions plain from the start: to re-write Earp as epic, as a thunderous parable of America, and to present a more ambivalent Wyatt. For the first half-hour of the film, when Wyatt is a 15- year-old (played by Ian Bohen, the only time it's not Kevin Costner), growing up in the cornfields of 1863 Iowa, it works well. Never mind that every line of Gene Hackman, as Wyatt's father, Nicholas Earp, has

PHOTOGRAPHY / Talking pictures: Bridges and Byrne: Jeff Bridges' (right) enthusiasm for photography was an unexpected spin-off from a re-make of the film King Kong; David Byrne's (left) portfolio is, in part, a by-product of his insomniac musings on hotel furniture. Jane Richards talked to the actor and the songwriter about their extra-curricular work

I've thought about directing,' says the actor Jeff Bridges, 'I'm drawn to it and repelled by it at the same time. I know the work and time it takes. I mean, I get exhausted by what I do, but directing would be 10 times worse.'

GOING OUT / Stuntman makes star look good, and star returns compliment

BEHIND the sheen of the movies lies a lot of hanging around. 'Some knit,' says Jeff Bridges, the quietly excellent star of Jagged Edge and Texasville: 'I take pictures.' The pictures he takes capture the making of the pictures he makes. His camera is a Widelux, giving a frame like a cinema screen. Bridges uses it to juxtapose different worlds. As David Thomson said when he reviewed Bridges' first exhibition, in Santa Monica last year: 'he keeps the glamorous intensity of the story and the untidy process that makes it in one sweep'. Now the show is coming here. Meanwhile, Bridges has been seen in Fearless, and on its poster, apparently poised to jump off a skyscraper. In fact, it was a stuntman; Bridges was there too, but only to press the shutter. The result was 'Gil Combs Making Me Look Good', above. (Zelda Cheatle Gallery, WC2, 071-836 0506, Tues to 30 Sept, not Sun & Mon.)

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.'

CINEMA / More than we'll ever know: The check-out girl from Santa Ana is now the most sought-after actress in Hollywood. But where does Michelle Pfeiffer go from here? And what's behind those smog-laden eyes?

YOU WOULD hardly be surprised if, in a movie called Wolf, starring Jack Nicholson, the leading actress had little more to do than stand back and look fearful, or fascinated. But the actress cast in that role is Michelle Pfeiffer - so there is more to be said, as well as stray, warning apprehensions that go unuttered but which linger in our mind, like the calm grief in her smog-laden eyes. Wolf is a silly picture (though it doesn't quite bury an intriguing idea), and Pfeiffer might have regarded it as just a photo-opportunity with a famous co-star and some cool clothes. (Her character also sleeps beneath a Velasquez Infanta - which begins to explain such ancient, experienced eyes. And she snores a little - when did a beautiful actress ever snore?) But she makes so much of the slight role, we want to know more about her character, the subversive loner daughter of a plutocrat publisher.

FILM / Crash, bang, codswallop: Fearless (15); Tom and Viv (15); Widow's Peak (PG); Striking Distance (18); White Angel (18); Stalingrad (15); That Night (12)

ONLY PETER Weir would find spiritual uplift in a plane crash. The finale to Weir's Fearless (15), in which a DC-10 plunges to earth, can be seen as the climax of a career whose occultism, in films like The Last Wave and Picnic at Hanging Rock, has often seemed a flaky manifesto against the material world. In the passengers' moments of mortal horror, Weir becomes enraptured, drowning the crash's cacophonous impact in religiose music (Gorecki, Symphony No 3), and turning the devastation into a serenely enchanting light show. We see the aeroplane split its seams, but in images of soft, deliquescent beauty rather than shuddering agony.

FILM / Fearless, lacking nerve: Other new releases - Fearless (15), Director: Peter Weir (US); Striking Distance (18), Director: Rowdy Herrington (US); Stalingrad (15), Director: Joseph Vilsmaier (Ger); That Night (12), Director: Craig Bolotin (US); White Angel (15), Director: Chris Jones (UK)

In the run-up to Fearless (15), there have been some efforts to tout Jeff Bridges as one of the great lost talents of Hollywood - why is such a versatile actor not a huge star, the question goes. The answer is surely that his range is actually very restricted, to characters who don't cover the full gamut of human emotion - amoralists, drifters and cynics in The Fisher King, Cutter's Way, The Fabulous Baker Boys, Jagged Edge. Even when he gets to play sympathetic, as in Starman, it's as a creature who has to learn how to feel.

FILM / Grunge gets grimier in the gutters of Seattle

BY THE end of American Heart (15) you may wonder if the title is a contradiction in terms. British director Martin Bell's first feature is set in the same seedy Seattle backwaters as was his documentary, Streetwise. Floating into this stagnant pond is Jeff Bridges' Jack, straight out of the slammer and sporting a ponytail and a physique that looks as if it has been honed on prison boredom. With him is his teenage son, Nick (Edward Furlong), a moody, mistrustful boy with a permanent frown of wounded innocence. Together they start a new life in this pitiless, dingy city. There's not been a dirtier film all year: from the peeled walls of the pair's rented apartment to the desultory buskers outside. You feel after a while like getting up to wash your hands.

PHOTOGRAPHY / Some knit: I take photographs: The actor Jeff Bridges has been playing double agent, taking a camera on location. David Thomson admires the results

LAST SUNDAY was a good day for Jeff Bridges. He was the cover story in the New York Times Magazine, billed as 'Hollywood's Most Underrated Actor'. That piece was pegged to the American opening of Peter Weir's Fearless, in which Bridges plays a man who survives a major air crash but lives in a state of shock so that he feels immortal. He was also in the middle of work on a new action picture, Blown Away, in which he is a bomb-squad officer.

Letter: Choice delivery

IN AN otherwise excellent article about 'My Funny Valentine' (Review, 20 June) Giles Smith states that Michelle Pfeiffer's delivery of the song in The Fabulous Baker Boys 'is respectable and no more . . . The song is a smart choice to cap a film about settling for second best.' No.

CINEMA / Very cardiac, quite arresting

IN Tony Bill's Untamed Heart (15), Christian Slater plays a busser in a Minneapolis diner who claims to have a baboon's heart. His dicky ticker was operated on in his childhood and a nun in the orphanage where he was raised spun him a yarn about the Lord of the Apes visiting. Within minutes, a baboon-sized metaphor is on the loose, swinging from scene to scene, beating its breast. The dialogue has an uncommon cardiac awareness. People say things like: 'You've got too good a heart.' Or: 'I'm going to give you my heart.' Slater, whose character is a sort of noble savage, living in a book-lined shack, is wild yet vulnerable - yes, an untamed heart.

FILM / Now you see it, now you don't: Adam Mars-Jones reviews George Sluizer's second stab at The Vanishing

CURIOSITY, which brings us to the cinema in the first place, is rarely explored in the films that we see there. A recent exception was the Dutch director George Sluizer's The Vanishing, a coldly brilliant and formally rich horror film, in which a man whose girlfriend inexplicably disappeared became obsessed with the need to know what happened to her. This need to know, which the audience came to share, was shown nevertheless not to be a form of love, nor even an over-compensation for guilt (though the hero had had a row with her immediately before the disappearance) but a perverse mental state in its own right.
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