Film

War and Peace

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Review of 'No Man's Land', director Danis Tanovic

Sometimes you see an image so often that it becomes familiar and meaningless, and the scenes of wars we see on television are one example. During the civil war that consumed Yugoslavia in the 1990s, a television reporter would talk to camera in front of armoured personnel carriers full of UN peacekeepers, the sound of shelling going on behind them. But it does not take much to make an apparently familiar situation seem new.

Resisting the Temptation of Love

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Review of 'Charlotte Gray', director Gillian Armstrong

'Charlotte Gray', based on Sebastian Faulks's novel, is a classic story of girl meets boy, girl loses boy, girl signs up as a spy behind enemy lines in Vichy France to find boy, girl ends up with different boy. Cate Blanchett plays the title role, a young Scottish woman with a love of all things French and a hatred of what the Nazis have done to the country. She is naive and romantic, and falls in love with an RAF officer at a party. When he fails to return from a mission over France she resolves to go there and find him.

A Very Public Rebellion

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Review of 'If...', director Lindsay Anderson

1968 was the big year of revolt, its epicentre the student-led insurrection in Paris. But the spirit of resistance in the field of culture and the arts had begun earlier. In the late 1950s French New Wave cinema had rejected the well made studio film and taken to the streets to celebrate freedom. The spin-off here was the emergence of a number of film directors such as Lindsay Anderson. He made 'If...' in 1968, the very year in which the spirit of revolt became a material force.

Murder and Mystery

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Review of 'From Hell', directors Albert and Allen Hughes

The Jack the Ripper story repeatedly attracts the interest of modern artists. Is it the dark and frightening background of Victorian London, or the supposed connections of the murderer to the Freemasons and to the eldest son of Queen Victoria, the Duke of Clarence? Whatever, this is no ordinary murder story, but a symbol of a class riven city and an imperial order in deep crisis.

Truth Massacred

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Review of 'Black Hawk Down', director Ridley Scott

The US intervention in Somalia in the early 1990s was called 'Operation Restore Hope'. It was part of an ongoing UN mission in the country that brought despair, not hope. When the UN was forced to flee in 1995 Somalia was in tatters--the warlord General Aideed's popularity had risen for resisting foreign intervention, an unknown number of Somalis had been killed (perhaps several thousand), and the country was further plunged into warring chaos that would last for years.

Detecting the Divide

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Review of 'Gosford Park', director Robert Altman

In a big country mansion in 1932 a rich family and their friends gather, waited on hand and foot by an army of servants. At midnight a murder is committed. 'Gosford Park' has all the hallmarks of an Agatha Christie whodunit. But anyone expecting the usual Agatha Christie fare, with its gentlemanly upper class heroes, comic book villains and racist stereotypes, will be sorely disappointed. This is a whodunit told from the servants' point of view.

Friendship Turns to Ashes

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Review of 'Last Orders', director Fred Schepisi

At first sight you may question the appeal of a film about the lives of a rather unrepresentative group of friends--an undertaker, a car salesman, a butcher and a market trader, all of whom are white. Nonetheless, this is a warm and witty film with great characters and wonderful acting. It also has interesting things to say about familiar aspects of human relationships such as friendship, loyalty and betrayal, loss and grief, the end of innocence during the war, and the new aspirations of the postwar generation.

Jab in the Right Direction

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Review of 'Ali', director Michael Mann

Pity the makers of 'Ali', the long gestated $105 million Hollywood biopic starring Will Smith. The picture was in the can well before 11 September, and one can imagine the growing discomfort of studio executives as they wondered how to market this tale of a black American who converts to Islam and then refuses to serve his country in a time of war. In the US the film has already proved a box office disappointment, overshadowed by Ridley Scott's Black Hawk Down.

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