Culture

One Moment in Time

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Review of '11.09.01', various directors

'11.09.01' is a movie I expected to like. After all, it is an interesting idea. Eleven directors from around the world were given a budget of $400,000 and asked to make a short film (each a symbolic 11 minutes 9 seconds and one frame long) about 11 September.

It's also a film that our enemies actively hate. It has been mercilessly attacked in the right wing press of the world, usually for being 'anti-American propaganda'. The film has been effectively banned in the US. On the other hand Indian director Mira Nair has acclaimed the movie a 'rebirth of cinema's conscience'. If only.

Counterpoint

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Review of 'The Pianist', director Roman Polanski

When the Nazis invaded Warsaw in September 1939, 360,000 of the city's 1 million inhabitants were Jewish. By the time the Nazis retreated in January 1945 there were only 20 Jews left alive. 'The Pianist' is the story of Wladyslaw Szpilman, one of those survivors.

Poetry in Palestine

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Review of 'Divine Intervention', director Elia Suleiman

What do we learn of the real lives of Palestinian men, women and children from the press? Not much. 'Divine Intervention' is a highly successful attempt to challenge this censorship by omission. Its form is reminiscent of 1980s Latin American magical realism. This is not accidental. In order for those voices to be heard, director Elia Suleiman has created an allegory, a pastiche of the sufferings of the Palestinian people which contains sublime moments of pathos, humour and love.

City Lives

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Review of 'Metropolis: Special Edition', director Fritz Lang

During the first half of the 20th century many of the great milestones in world cinema were repeatedly censored, re-edited and generally mutilated beyond recognition. In particular, the most highly politically charged films were most liable to be either banned or bowdlerised and 'Metropolis', the classic German Expressionist film of 1926, was no exception.

Hill District Blues

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Review of 'King Hedley II' by August Wilson, Tricycle Theatre, London

'King Hedley II' is the eighth in August Wilson's projected cycle of ten plays exploring the black experience in each decade of the 20th century. Set in the Reaganite 1980s in Pittsburgh's Hill District, it is a time of urban devastation brought on by slash and burn economic policies. Job opportunities are scarce and violence is a part of everyday life. Like all of Wilson's plays, starting with 'Ma Rainey's Black Bottom', and including 'Fences' and 'The Piano Lesson', for which he won the Pulitzer Prize, it is set in the background of an American society created by racism.

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.

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