Arts and Entertainment Morgan Freeman, Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro and Kevin Kline in Last Vegas

(12A) Jon Turteltaub, 104 mins, Starring: Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline

A class act

Morgan Freeman has had three Oscar nominations. He doesn't get work just because he's black. And he can't need the money... So why, asks Janie Lawrence, is he playing a black factotum in a dire `Moll Flanders'?

The fine art of killing

The killer as artist, the victim as installation: this is Hollywood's aesthetic response to serial murder. By Kim Newman

Seven Oscar nominations, not much bite

Cinema

FILM THEATRE EXHIBITIONS GIGS CLASSICAL MUSIC/DANCE

GOING OUT - CRITICS' CHOICE

The revenger's tragedy

Adam Mars-Jones on Bandit Queen and The Shawshank Redemption

FILM / The last Apache: Sheila Johnston on Geronimo, the best western to come out of America since Unforgiven. Plus other new releases

Geronimo (12), Director: Walter Hill (US); To Live (12), Director: Zhang Yimou (China); The War of the Buttons (PG), Director: John Roberts (UK); Monkey Trouble (U), Director: Franco Amurri (US); Sparrow (12), Director: Franco Zeffirelli (Italy); Threesome (18), Director: Andrew Fleming (US)

The bad and the indifferent

LAST WEEK, I went to see Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven. In one sense, it was all Eastwood. Once again, the wordless, narrow-eyed loner wreaks justice with his gun. Once again, the sky and the mountains look down on a community mired in cruelty and cowardice, waiting for its saviour. But Unforgiven is more than just another Clintiad.

FILM / The Last Detail: The western is back. But whatever happened to the white picket fence?

I LIKE westerns. More precisely, I like westerns without Indians and without pretensions. Which ought to exclude, on the latter count, Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven. But since I found it as magnificent as everyone else apparently did, I would argue that, if you define pretension as 'overreaching ambition', then Unforgiven is indeed a western without either Indians or pretensions. (Dances With Wolves, of course, had both in spades.) And while I'm striking a strictly personal note, let me say that I'm also not crazy about westerns set in Mexico (with their fiestas and cantinas and Speedy Gonzales comic relief), westerns about fur trappers (boring), and westerns in which grizzled oldtimers sport long red underwear.

FILM / Here's shooting at you, Kid: Unforgiven; A League of Their Own

A MAN beside a grave, silhouetted by sunset: such is the image that opens and closes Unforgiven. It looks too corny by half, but then westerns have always taught us that really high-grade corn can ripen into poignancy. We know the liturgy so well - the lonesomeness, the matching crags of paleface and rockface, the coat peeled back like a curtain to show the holstered gun; it should go stale, but the promise of adventure feels more reliable every time. Come home to real gunfire.

FILM / An end to the Perrier western: Eastwood returns on a horse and on form

When Clint Eastwood is preparing a western, he wears the gear around for a while. He pretty much lives in the shirt and pants. He spends time in the hat. This sounds like a standard American film-star approach, until you realise that Eastwood is at the opposite extreme to say, Robert De Niro in his preparation. It's not that he needs to practise how it feels to wear a cowboy hat, if he's to get properly inside his part. It's a method acting lesson all right, but it's for the benefit of the wardrobe not the actor. The shirts and pants have to feel right about what they're doing. The hat needs to get used to being worn by Clint Eastwood.

RIFFS / Kate Pierson of The B52s on Dylan's 'A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall'

This would have to be the song that's most influenced me. Normally I'm interested in melody and harmony and yet this song is not strong on either. There's certainly no harmony in it, but it's based on a simple folk song melody, so it's the kind of song which makes you want to harmonise as you listen to it. I first heard 'A Hard Rain' when I was about 13, and a complete Bob Dylan fanatic. It was hard to get my friends to like it. I was in a folk protest group called The Sun Doughnuts - we were going to be the Sundowners but someone was already called that - and we wrote and covered protest songs, and this was one I wanted us to do. But the rest of the band said no. The lyric is full of symbolism and it captures the intensity of the times. It sounds like a stream of consciousness, as if it just poured out of him. And it's political without being didactic: it doesn't hit you over the head, but as you listen you get more and more stirred up, until, by the end, you're feeling, change the world. There's so much in this song about America that is still true. I went to the Democratic convention and heard Clinton's speech, and it was about America divided, segregated. Things haven't changed that much. But I like the line about hope: 'I'm a'goin' back out 'fore the rain starts a-fallin' . ' I love that it's a call to action by the end.
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