Movie reviews: Poltergeist, Une Nouvelle Amie, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, A Fuller Life
Paul Whitington reviews this week's other big releases - Poltergeist, Une Nouvelle Amie, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, A Fuller Life
In Steven Spielberg and Tobe Hooper's classic 1982 horror film Poltergeist, a little girl unleashed angry spirits by talking to the voices in her television set. Now, 33 years later, Gil Kenan and 20th Century Fox have decided to tell exactly the same story with... Poltergeist (3*, 15A, 93mins). Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt are the harried parents of three kids who move into a creepy new house built on the site of a cemetery.
Kennedi Clements is the cute little girl who invites hell into suburbia, Jared Harris (channelling his father's accent) is the psychic investigator who's called in when she disappears. The new Poltergeist isn't all that patient about building up its tension, and makes no improvements on the original film, but is competent, watchable and entirely inoffensive.
Francois Ozon's eccentric and playful film Une Nouvelle Amie (3*) is based on a short story by Ruth Rendell and tackles the vexed question of sexual identity.
Claire (Anais Demoustier) is devastated when her lifelong best friend Laura dies suddenly. Claire was godmother to Laura's baby daughter, and when she calls in to visit the child one day, she finds Laura's husband, David (Romain Duris), feeding the infant wearing a wig and a floral dress.
Claire's righteous indignation quickly subsides after David tells her that Laura was aware of his suppressed transvestitism. And when she helps him shop for clothes and appear in public as a woman for the first time, a tentative bond is formed. But it soon becomes clear that their friendship is not entirely innocent.
Romain Duris has a fine big chin, and makes Jack Lemmon in Some Like it Hot look like Lana Turner by comparison. But perhaps that's part of the point, because for all its sly ironies, Ozon's film examines the real issues that confront transgender individuals, and while a bit too glib for its own good at times, does make you think.
First shown here during the Jameson Dublin Film Festival, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (4*, No Cert, IFI, 101mins) was adapted from her own graphic novel by Iranian-American film-maker Ana Lily Amirpour: it's a nicely made and oddly graceful film, set in a sinister ghost town surrounded by huge, slowly pumping oil drills.
Arash Marandi plays Arash, a young man in love with 1950s kitsch who lives with his drug-addicted father. They're both in thrall to an odious pimp and dealer called Saeed, who doesn't realise that a chador-wearing vampire is waiting in the shadows to sort him out. Ana Lily Amirpour's haunting black-and-white film is full of beautifully choreographed moments that stick in your mind, and uses pop music skilfully and purposefully.
There are lots of obvious influences, from Jim Jarmusch to Sergio Leone, but also a strong strain of bracing originality.
Sam Fuller was a Hollywood maverick, a pugnacious writer/director who became famous for war movies that unflinchingly depicted the grim realities of conflict. And in A Fuller Life (3*, No Cert, IFI, 80mins), this affectionate documentary by his daughter, Samantha, friends and collaborators such as Jennifer Beals, Win Wenders, James Franco and Tim Roth read excerpts from Fuller's autobiography that gives us an insight into his extraordinary life.
Fuller wrote pulp crime novels before moving to Hollywood in the mid-1930s to try screenwriting, but enlisted when the war broke out. He was involved in the battle for North Africa and the landings at Sicily and Normandy, and returned to America determined to tell the stories of the men he'd fought with.
His vivid memoirs are powerfully brought to life by the readers, who sit in Fuller's old office surrounded by his books and trophies. Some even impersonate him, and Wim Wenders enters enthusiastically into the spirit of things by sucking one of Fuller's trademark stogies as he speaks.