Culture

Bunny Business

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Review of 'Donnie Darko', director Richard Kelly

This is not the first film about a murderous giant rabbit, but it is by a long way the best.

On one level, cult triumph 'Donnie Darko' is an old story. Donnie (magnificently played by Jake Gyllenhaal) is the troubled outsider at high school, with a dysfunctional family and a genius IQ. And he has a monstrous giant rabbit-thing giving him orders. It is a measure of 26 year old, first-time writer/director Richard Kelly's prowess that the fact this rabbit goes by the amiable name 'Frank' does nothing to diminish the chill of its presence.

Players and Fighters

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Review of 'Laissez-Passer', director Bertrand Tavernier

The French Resistance is a subject that film-makers have returned to time and time again. The vast majority of these films present either romanticised versions, typified by the recent blockbuster 'Charlotte Gray', or glossy sitcom 'Allo, Allo' types. There is no danger of either with Bertrand Tavernier's wonderful new film 'Laissez-Passer' ('Safe Conduct').

Gun-Loving Criminals

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Review of 'Bowling for Columbine', director Michael Moore

A spokesman for Lockheed Martin is lost for words. The biggest employer in Littleton, Colorado cannot explain why two students at the local Columbine high school massacred their own classmates. But his condemnation of violence rings hollow--for Lockheed Martin is an arms manufacturer, and behind the spokesman sits a deadly US missile.

Two Sides of New York Collide

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Review of 'Changing Lanes', director Roger Michell

In synopsis 'Changing Lanes' could sound crude and sentimental. It's about two New York men living very separate lives which literally collide on the FDR driveway. Gavin Banek (Ben Affleck) is the Young Turk of Stephen Delano's up-market law firm. Handsome, lean, married to the boss's daughter, he has it all. Doyle Gipson (Samuel L Jackson) is a recovering alcoholic, holding down a job tele-selling insurance and desperate to fix a mortgage for his estranged wife and two sons to forestall her move out of his life to Oregon.

Document of Brutality

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Review of 'Footprints', director Ben Hopkins

'Footprints' is a documentary film about cluster bombs, concentrating on their effect in Afghanistan today and Laos in 1969. That year Laos, a small country bordering Vietnam, had an amazing 19 million cluster bombs dropped on it, more than those dropped on all countries during the Second World War. The characteristic of cluster bombing, besides directly killing people on a vast scale, is that up to 30 percent do not detonate, but settle underground and last for decades.

Voices to be Heard

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Review of 'Imprint', Young Writers Programme, Royal Court Theatre, London

The Royal Court Theatre is currently running its biennial Young Writers Programme. 'Imprint' features ten scripts chosen from the original 400 submitted by playwrights aged between 13 and 25 who need not have had any previous writing experience. The programme aims to 'open up theatre to the most exciting and diverse range of new voices', offering the chance to attend writer groups and summer schools in support. It is working closely with young homeless and disabled writers, and has previously had some success in producing established writers.

In Defiance

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Review of exhibition 'Anthem for Doomed Youth', Imperial War Museum, London

I am making this statement as a wilful defiance of military authority... I have seen and endured the suffering of the troops, and I can no longer be a party to prolong these sufferings for ends which I believe to be evil and unjust.' Siegfried Sassoon's rejection of the First World War is one of many moving tributes to soldier poets killed in that conflict in the Imperial War Museum's 'Anthem for Doomed Youth' exhibition.

Plenty to Shout About

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Review of 'The Quiet American', director Phillip Noyce

Upon its 1956 release Graham Greene's original novel, 'The Quiet American', was attacked for its anti-American sentiments. Despite this, Hollywood pressed ahead with a film adaptation two years later, simply changing its ending to accommodate McCarthy-charged expectations and champion Western ideology over Communism. Now a new film version, directed by Philip Noyce, is having the same accusations levelled at it as the original.

World of Pain

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Review of 'Dirty Pretty Things', director Stephen Frears

Okwe is a Nigerian refugee trying to get by in London. He's an illegal immigrant. He was once a doctor but now has two low paid jobs, as a minicab driver and a hotel receptionist, and takes drugs to stay awake. He is a quiet, intelligent, proud man, forced to live as a hunted animal, forever on the lookout for the authorities. He lives in the tense, hidden world of the migrant worker--the world of sweatshop labour and prostitution, exploitation, misery, isolation and pain. He's resigned to this desperate situation, knowing that as an illegal, he is 'nothing'.

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