Beware-Mindless Teenage Sex XVI now playing at area theatres
Tearsheets: Allied Advertising, Loew's Theaters (formerly known as USA Cinemas)
By MANAVENDRA K. THAKUR
SUMMER IS HERE, which means that the endless Hollywood sequels and mindless teenage sex comedies are attacking theaters with a vengeance. Here is a summary of some new films playing in theaters now.
MURMUR OF THE HEART This is a French film made by celebrated director Louis Malle in 1971, and it is now in re-release. Like 1987's Au revoir, les enfants, Malle explores memories of his bourgeois upbringing in a wealthy suburb of Lyon. The film is comedic and heartfelt, and it is always intelligently constructed.
There are two problems, though. One is that the acting is not always convincing, and the second is that the film never really gets to the heart of the theme of incest to which it builds up. Malle's films have always been highly descriptive rather than analytic, but his best films have had a strong impact in terms of getting his audience to think about the issues raised by the films. This film does do that to some degree, but it is disappointing to realize that the film is not nearly as provocative as Lacombe Lucien (1974) and Pretty Baby (1978) were.
Nevertheless, the film marks an important step in Malle's artistic progression, and it's re-release should be welcomed by his fans everywhere.
Now playing at the Coolidge Corner.
HOW TO GET AHEAD IN ADVERTISING The answer to that question is, according to this zany British comedy, to grow one -- which is precisely what the main character does. If that sounds strange, the film just gets more and more bizarre as it goes along. By the end of it all, the new head takes control of the main character's body -- in the final scene, all he does is gesticulate wildly and spout gibberish.
This sort of anarchic filmmaking thoroughly undercuts its claim that advertising is a morally bankrupt industry, and it doesn't really allow the film to work as a comedy, or much of anything else for that matter. Unlike 1987's Eat the Rich (another anarchic and strange British film), How To Get Ahead in Advertising has difficulty staying in one's memory for more than a few minutes after the film ends.
Now playing at the Paris cinema.
PAPERHOUSE This British film is an enjoyable thriller about a little girl named Anna (Charlotte Burke) whose dreams start spilling over into reality -- or maybe it's the other way around. Blurring the distinction between reality and dreams is something that the medium of film excels at, and master directors like Andrei Tarkovsky have done exactly that in many of his greatest and most artistic films.
Paperhouse links dreams and reality mainly for fun and games, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. However, once the audience realizes that the film is constructed around this dichotomy between dream and reality, one's initial interest begins to fade away. Director Bernard Rose can offer little more than an eerie atmosphere that doesn't do anything better than the decades-old masterpieces of German Expressionism. To keep the film going, Rose has to resort to banal horror movie routines. Hence, when Anna calls out in her dream world for her dad to rescue her from a threatening predicament, he turns out to be a sinister, silhouetted figure who threatens her with a large, gleaming axe instead.
It is because the film has a reality/dream dichotomy that one critic has dubbed the film as "Nightmare on Elm Street with brains." This is an entirely accurate description, but the film isn't nearly as satisfying as the quotation implies.
The film, which had its American premiere at the Boston Film Festival last September, is now playing at the Nickelodeon Theater.
VAMPIRE'S KISS About the only decent thing about this wretched attempt to make a comedy about vampires in Manhattan is the musical score by Briton Colin Towns, who last year energized Bellman and True with his subtly charged score. Needless to say, Towns' score can't save Vampire's Kiss all by itself. The film is not funny and becomes patently offensive at the end.
Nicolas Cage plays Peter Lowe, an advertising executive in New York City, who gets smitten and bitten by Rachel (Jennifer Beals), a sultry vampire who's into leather and pain. At work, Lowe terrorizes a newly-hired secretary named Alva (Maria Conchita Alonso), who has trouble finding a contract in the company files dating back to 1963. Lowe also sees a psychiatrist to help his romantic problems.
The first half of the film tries to be humorous but fails. The second half tries to be decidedly psychotic -- and succeeds. Lowe decides he's not bullying Alva enough, so he rapes her. This is supposed to be funny? Alonso's performance as Lowe's victim is particularly touching in this scene, and it's the only piece of real acting in the film. It highlights just how poor the rest of the film is. There's no accounting for taste, but one thing is for certain: this film has no redeeming features whatsoever.
This review first appeared in these pages last September when the film played in the Boston Film Festival. The film is now playing at the Copley Place Cinema.