Issue section: 

Consequences of Love - Mysterious Skin - A Good Woman - Toussaint biopic - Wilberforce - The Wind That Shakes the Barley

The Consequences of Love, directed by Paolo Sorrentino, is meant to signal a revival in the fortunes of Italian cinema. It's certainly a relief from that nation's recent sentiment-drenched offerings. But this stylish pared-down drama effort is still some way from the high point of politically committed 1970s Italian cinema.

A former stockbroker, in the grip of the Mafia, lives in an anonymous hotel. He leads a boring life. He's a slave to routine, his heroin addiction and his daily movements to the hotel bar. But the visit of a couple of Sicilian hitmen destabilises his routine. His seizure of a particular opportunity and the sacrifice he's prepared to make radically transform the energy of the film. Until this visit the film is at pains to convey his alienation and emotional coolness. The film contains one of those improbable fantasy relationships where a beautiful young woman (the hotel barmaid) is enchanted by the enigmatic demeanour of this middle aged man. Slick editing and hyperdramatic use of sound are wrapped around a slight film of sacrifice and personal defiance.

Another stylish offering which may also be limited in its appeal is Gregg Akari's Mysterious Skin.

This tale concerns two boys who are bound to each other by a dark secret which gets revealed in the extremely shocking climax. In the summer of 1981 Brian - a gawky boy in a schoolkids' baseball team - suffers a mental blackout and begins to think he must have been abducted by aliens. That same summer a star player, Neil, joins the team and falls immediately in love with the golden haired adult coach, who is also his babysitter. When Neil gets older he becomes a gay prostitute, who leaves small city life for the more dangerous waters of New York City. Bookish Brian, on the other hand, pursues his alien obsession, meeting a fellow deluded girl who encourages him to search for the reasons behind his memory blackout. When Brian eventually tracks Neil down he discovers for the first time the basis of his childhood trauma at the hands of the paedophile baseball coach. The recollections are unsettling, provocative and undoubtedly tough material - definitely not for the squeamish. The direction has an uneven tone but it's a film made with candour in its description of complex emotions and psychological confusions.

No one can accuse Mike Barker's A Good Woman of edge and darkness. This stolidly directed film almost whips out the wit and satire of the original with its veneration for Oscar Wilde's stage play Lady Windermere's Fan. Affluent newlyweds Robert (Mark Umbers) and Meg (Scarlett Johansson) Windermere, take a honeymoon in the sunkissed Italian Riveria. Everything seems fine until penniless middle aged Mrs Erlynne (played by Helen Hunt) visits and suddenly gossip arises about her relationship with Robert. Wilde takes a sympathetic look at the kind of woman who had no other option but to leech off wealthy married men to survive. But Helen Hunt is so badly miscast and the pacing is so leaden that one feels Wilde has not been best served by this production.

Up and coming projects to look out for. I remember Paul Foot making a plea for filmmakers to produce the life story of Toussaint L'Ouverture, the leader of the slave revolt in Haiti. Well, Toussaint the bio pic is to be directed by black actor Danny Glover in South Africa next year. In contrast Dirty Pretty Things writer Steven Knight has penned Wilberforce, a film about the 18th century British politician William Wilberforce. Ken Loach's new film, The Wind That Shakes The Barley goes into production soon. It's an Irish Civil War drama written by Loach's regular collaborator, Paul Laverty. Named after a 19th century political song, the film revolves around a family and one of the so called flying columns, the Irish guerrilla units that lived rough as they fought the British on the run, between 1919 and the early 1920s. Through their eyes, we see the effect of the Anglo-Irish war and the subsequent Civil War that shaped the country.