Sunday, April 5

TAPEWORMS


EWORMS"Bhaji on the Beach" (First Look Pictures) This
sickeningly

melodramatic film centers around a daylong trip to the beach for
an Asian

women’s group. A lot happens in one day. The film explores the
generational

changes and conflicts between Indian women living in England.
One of the

daughters gets pregnant, another is a "wild" alcohol-drinking,
boy-chasing

pre-teen. To top off the problems, yet another woman struggles
to raise a

child alone after she leaves her abusive husband. This is a lot
to deal

with, right? Miraculously, the director manages to wrap up all
of these

problems in the last 10 minutes of the film. Some accomplishment
– too bad

it doesn’t work. Parts of "Bhaji" move very slowly, and Meera
Syal’s

screenplay at times seems ridiculous (the grandmother lets a
g-stringed

male stripper run his hands all over her as her relatives
laugh

hysterically), and cliched (basically, everything else).

Syal and director Gurinder Chada explore the emotions and
complexities

of women searching for an identity amid two cultures – a story
that is

rarely told on screen (big surprise). Unfortunately, as a film,
"Bhaji"

fails. It’s like watching a soap opera with a European dance
music score,

and lines that sound so forced it hurts to watch. If you do rent
this film,

you’re in for a painful 100 minutes. D.G. D-

"The Indian in the Cupboard" (Columbia/Tristar) This movie
didn’t

get much attention because it’s not full of computer animation,
and more

importantly, it’s not based on a video game. "The Indian in the
Cupboard"

is, instead, a refreshingly simple and creative story for kids.
Hal

Scardino plays Omri, a boy who gets a magical cupboard that
makes his toys

come to tiny life. The screenplay, which is adapted from the
children’s

book of the same title, lacks some of the emotion and insight
into

children’s imaginations seen in movies like "Time Bandits" and
"E.T.."

Still, Frank Oz’s direction makes this an entertaining journey
into

children’s fantasies. Oz successfully creates a fantasy world
without

relying on excessive special effects, and instead stresses the
story, which

is carried by Scardino’s charmingly awkward Omri. The lame
acting of the

parents is tolerable only because they are barely in the movie.
Omri and

his toys are what’s important, and Oz concentrates the action on
and around

their adventure. "The Indian in the Cupboard" may not become a
classic, but

it is a creative and entertaining movie. D.G. A-"Belle De Jour"
(Miramax) Why would a wealthy, upper class woman

who is married to a doting husband and seems frigid towards sex
become a

high-class prostitute? This is the question at the center of
Luis Bunuel’s

"Belle De Jour," and though the director never provides a clear
answer, the

1967 film is nonetheless an intriguing exploration of one
woman’s dual

identity and impulses that fuel her actions. The narrative
unfolds in an

almost hypnotic fashion. An idyllic opening scene in the country
suddenly

descends into torture and terror, and when the horror seems
complete,

director Bunuel suddenly reveals that the entire sequence is one
of several

nightmares that plagues Severine Sevigny (Catherine Deneuve).
Severine is

married to a successful doctor who appears to adore her, yet
their

relationship is oddly chaste. The frigid partner in the marriage
seems to

be Severine, who, as it is later revealed in flashback, was
molested as a

child. But is the flashback a genuine memory, or just another
nightmare?

Bunuel’s style – he cuts back and forth between reality and
dream without

providing clues to distinguish the transitions – makes it
impossible to be

sure. And when Severine finds herself inexplicably drawn to a
brothel run

by Madame Anais (Genevieve Page), the reasons for her
fascination are again

murky. Severine takes the name Belle De Jour (which means Beauty
of the

Day) and begins working as a prostitute by day. Severine does
not know the

reasons for her actions, and Bunuel refuses to provide viewers
with any

easy answers. "Belle De Jour" demands more from its viewers than
the

average film and will keep audiences completely engrossed from
beginning to

end. C.T. A"First Knight" (Columbia/TriStar) Camelot purists
will probably

hate this movie, but those with an appetite for adventure,
romance and

Richard Gere will find "First Knight" a first-rate piece of
entertainment.

Screenwriter William Nicholson has retooled the Arthurian legend
with a

distinct ’90s bent. Lancelot (Richard Gere) is cast as an
archetypal 20th

century rebel, a brooding loner with no family, no friends and
a

devil-may-care charisma that just oozes from his every pore.
Lancelot still

falls for Lady Guinevere (Julia Ormond), the wife of King Arthur
(Sean

Connery) and the result is still the downfall of Camelot. More
surprising

than the Star Trek-like knight outfits and the curiously modern
democratic

ideals of Camelot is Sean Connery’s ineffectiveness as the King.
Connery is

given little to do but mope about being melodramatic or
helpless, and his

role only functions as a reminder of how dashing young Lancelot
is. Despite

these missteps, however, "First Knight" is still a raucous good
time.

C.T. BReviews by Dina Gashman and Colburn Tseng.


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