India looks set, as they say. to clean up at the box office. It has already triumphed at the Oscar ceremony, as well as bringing David Lean back into critical favour and Peggy Ashcroft abundant praise for her portrayal of Mrs Moore. The Indian tourist board should be happy too. Oscar winner Dame Peggy Ashcroft It has been hard to keep track of all the Carmen films on offer and now we have Franco Rosi's version of Carmen ("PG", Lumiere) to add to the list.
Unlike the others, this is a straight film of Bizet's opera, albeit amid picturesque Spanish settings. Julia Migenes-Johnson is the faithless, independent heroine and Placido Domingo is Don Jose, her hopeless lover.
I suspect that criticism is neither here nor there. If you enjoy the opera then you should enjoy the film. I don't very much and am inclined to lament Rosi's abjuration of his previous social and political concerns.
The director's claim that his film is about class relations, the emergence of modern woman, and so forth, does not really stand up. Carmen is too lightweight for that; it does not engage our minds. And, come to think of it, it doesn't engage our hearts either.
Latest and least of the "barnyard movies" is The River ("PG", Plaza). While it recalls Places In The Heart and Country quite insistently with the dramas faced by its lead characters, the film has a bizarre stylisation of cinematography, language and plot which is all its own.
The general effect is of a world pervaded by a mystery which we never manage to penetrate. Country preaches against Reagan, Places In The Heart against less specific evils (such as racism or greed), whereas The River seems baffled and baffling., Mystification is getting to be something of a hobby for director Mark Rydell — it was a major characteristic of his earlier On Golden Pond.
Not, needless to say, that either film is without merit. The River offers pleasing performances from Sissy Spacck and Mel Gibson, and a very beautiful scene-setting opening.
Thinking again of that confusion between big and great, My Brother's Wedding ("PG", Ritzy) is a useful reminder of the substantial pleasures to be had from an unpretentiously small film. Made by independent black director Charles Burnett, this is an ironic tragi-comedy of upward mobility. At the centre of the story is a disaffected young man with his objections to his brother's unashamedly middle class marriage plans.
Passive resistance becomes unintended disruption in this witty and acutely observed tale of family life. The screenplay is excellent, the performances assured. Much enjoyed at the London Film Festival, My Brother's Wedding well deserves this wider screening. It is a pity it is not wider still.