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Moody, with a touch of class

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Issue 1684


Moody, with a touch of class

By Hazel Croft

LIMBO, the new film from radical US director John Sayles, is a gripping and atmospheric film. Sayles’s previous films include the excellent Matewan, about a Virginian coal strike, and Lone Star, which tackled the fate of Mexican immigrants in the US. He has the knack of capturing the contradictions of the lives of people squeezed by the system. Limbo is no exception. It follows the developing relationships between Joe, a former pulp mill worker, Donna, a singer in a local bar, and her daughter Noelle.

The characters are convincingly and sensitively drawn. All have been battered but not defeated by life. Joe is a man trying to overcome a tragedy in his past. Donna is gutsy and optimistic, determined to find something better than seedy bars and the even seedier men she’s lived with. They meet in a crisis-ridden fishing town in Alaska where the pulp mill has shut and the salmon cannery is about to close.

The film effortlessly portrays a class-divided community as a backdrop to the intense relationships between the main characters. There is a vivid image of the workers on the cannery production line watching their hopes being swilled away with the blood from the fish gutting. Meanwhile, a local bigwig wants to turn the town into a tourist attraction “Think of Alaska as one big theme park,” he urges. “History, not industry, is where our future lies.”

In the second half of the film Joe, Donna and Noelle go on a doomed boating trip with Joe’s brother. The three of them end up stranded in the Alaskan wilderness left to do battle with nature and each other. Limbo is a slightly uneven film. Some scenes in the film are totally riveting. Other parts are much less convincing. Limbo’s biggest strength is in the way it engages you in the intensity of the relationships between the main characters. It is refreshing to see characters that are not Hollywood cardboard cutouts but who portray complex and flawed human beings with a history. The film is not as powerful or as political as Matewan and Lone Star. But Limbo is brilliantly acted and well worth watching.


Designs for life

BAUHAUS IS the name given to the school of art, architecture and design founded in Germany after the First World War. It experimented with new forms of art and also with new ways of designing modern housing. The Nazis closed down the left-leaning experimental group when they seized power. This new exhibition in London includes paintings by two of the best known members of the Bauhaus school, Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky.

  • The exhibition is on at the Design Museum, Butlers Wharf, Shad Thames, SE1 (Tower Hill tube), 11.30am-6pm, cost 5.25/4 concessions. It runs until 4 June.


No happy ending

By Gareth Jenkins

THE END of the Affair is a reworking of Graham Greene’s novel. The film centres on the brief love affair between Sarah Miles (played by Julianne Moore), the wife of a high ranking government official, and a successful novelist, Maurice Bendix (played by Ralph Fiennes). We see the action mostly through Bendix’s eyes. He recalls how his love for Sarah turned to hatred when she unaccountably broke off the relationship. All the best dialogue and scenes in the film are taken from the novel.

They bring out the pain and hurt of two people who are tied to one another but whose lives move apart because one of them experiences a fundamental change in belief. This is the best part of the film. Unfortunately, in adapting Graham Greene’s novel to the big screen director Neil Jordan has distorted its theme. In the novel Sarah gives Bendix up once and for all as a consequence of a bargain she makes with God to save his life.

It is a horrible decision that betrays both Bendix and her own right to happiness. In the film Sarah goes back to Bendix, though there is no happy ending. Perhaps Jordan made this change to make the theme more acceptable. But it turns the film into too much of a weepie. The acting is superb. The novel, though, is more interesting.


Romeo for our times

By Rachel Aldred

A ROOM for Romeo Brass is a warm hearted and funny film that centres on the friendship between two boys. Romeo and Knocks live on a Nottinghamshire council estate. We laugh with them as they argue with their families and generally hang around not doing very much. Romeo especially is very likeable, sarcastic and cheeky. But he is also vulnerable. The boys’ world is instantly recognisable-family rows, closed shops and lack of facilities.

Romeo and Knocks meet a mysterious stranger, Morrell, an unlikely hero who saves the boys from getting beaten up. Fairly quickly it becomes clear that Morrell is both disturbed and dangerous. His pursuit of Romeo’s sister Ladine turns from comic to frightening. Some aspects of the film seem unconvincing. Morrell is too much of a caricature for us to care about him or understand him. Despite this, Romeo Brass is worth seeing. It captures the fun and the pain of working class childhood, but don’t expect too much depth.


PAT GARRETT AND BILLY THE KID (Sun, 10pm, C4). Very good retelling of the story of the killing of outlaw Billy the Kid in 1881. Brilliant soundtrack by Bob Dylan. 
APE MAN (Tues, 9pm, BBC2). First in a new series about the evolution of homo sapiens. 
SCUM (Tues, 11.35pm, C4). Another showing for the borstal drama. The prison brutality it portrayed caused controversy when it was first released. BRAVEHEART (Tues, 9pm, C5). Much-hyped drama of 13th century hero William Wallace starring Mel Gibson. 
MOBY DICK (Wed, 1.25pm, C4). Superb 1956 version of the Herman Melville epic about Captain Ahab’s obsession with killing the white whale. Stars Gregory Peck and Orson Welles.

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