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2 items from 1997


REVIEWS IN REVIEW:

8 April 1997 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

PARADISE ROAD

Fox Searchlight

Filmmaker Bruce Beresford is one of those people who seems to profit during wartime.

After a series of recent screen missteps, the Academy Award-nominated director of "Breaker Morant" (set against the backdrop of the Boer War) has regained his footing with the masterful "Paradise Road", a quietly accomplished work that takes its cue from the real-life exploits of a highly diverse group of women interned in a Japanese prison camp during World War II.

Powerfully executed in every aspect and boasting an exceptional all-female ensemble anchored by a remarkable performance by Glenn Close, this moving portrait of the triumph of the human spirit over adversity deserves, with a little TLC from Fox Searchlight, an audience beyond the specialty arena (HR 4/7).

Michael Rechtshaffen

KEYS TO TULSA

Gramercy Pictures

Gramercy's "Keys to Tulsa" might also be titled "Tulsaville". It's a swirling, saucy mix of Southwestern intrigue and turpitude.

Headed by a first-rate ensemble cast, including Mary Tyler Moore and James Coburn, "Keys" roiling dramatics are unfortunately short-changed by an atonal ending and some abrupt shifts in story emphasis.

Thematically and stylistically, "Keys to Tulsa" is Okie Gothic, awash with the dense delirium of yarns one usually associates with the Deep South. Credit goes to producer-director Leslie Greif for infusing "Tulsa" with its musty, murky tones (HR 4/7).

Duane Byrge

DOUBLE TEAM

Sony Pictures Releasing

Badly in need of more humor and humanity, such as that found in his best Hong Kong features, Tsui Hark's long-awaited, big-budget debut "Double Team" is doubly problematic.

Beyond a few sequences with some of the Hark magic and the formidable presence of NBA player Dennis Rodman, the Columbia Pictures film is not exactly an airball, but it bounces around the rim and finally fails to go in.

The track record of emergent Hong Kong filmmakers working with Jean-Claude Van Damme and producer Moshe Diamant is anything but inspiring. Hark struggles with the material here, and Van Damme plays another cold, barely articulate hero. Jokes alluding to basketball and Rodman's colorful costumes are the extent of the film's stabs at humor (HR 4/2).

David Hunter

DAS BOOT

Sony Pictures Releasing

Not since Columbia Pictures released the restored "Lawrence of Arabia" in 1989 has a film classic re-emerged so mightily ex-panded and improved as Wolfgang Petersen's masterpiece "Das Boot".

One of the great war films -- for its unparalleled action scenes and one's emotional involvement with the characters -- the 31Ú2 hour subtitled epic is an unforgettable voyage on a U-boat during World War II (HR 4/4).

David Hunter

Other reviews

Also reviewed last week were "When the Cat's Away" (HR 4/2); "Licensed to Kill" (4/3); and "Sick: The Life and Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist" and "Little City" (4/7).

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Film review: 'Paradise Road'

7 April 1997 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Filmmaker Bruce Beresford is one of those people who seems to profit during wartime.

After a series of recent screen missteps, the Academy Award-nominated director of "Breaker Morant" (set against the backdrop of the Boer War) has regained his footing with the masterful "Paradise Road", a quietly accomplished work that takes its cue from the real-life exploits of a highly diverse group of women interred in a Japanese prison camp during World War II.

Powerfully executed in every aspect and boasting an exceptional all-female ensemble anchored by a remarkable performance by Glenn Close, this moving portrait of the triumph of the human spirit over adversity deserves, with a little TLC from Fox Searchlight, an audience beyond the specialty arena. Hopefully its many merits won't be forgotten come Oscar time.

Beresford wastes little time before immersing the viewer in the experience. The film begins in the ballroom of Singapore's famed Raffles Hotel during the idyllic moments leading up to the mortar fire signaling Japanese occupation. The viewer is right alongside Englishwoman Adrienne Pargiter as she hastily boards a ship full of women and children that is subsequently bombed by enemy fighter planes, forcing her and others to dive into the open sea and swim to the shores of Sumatra.

Of course, their welcome is less than cordial as they are herded along with hundreds of other Europeans, Australians and Americans from all walks of life into a prisoner-of-war camp, where their Japanese hosts have very definite ideas of how women, especially enemy Western women, are supposed to behave.

Among those assembled are a spirited missionary (Pauline Collins), an American (Julianna Margulies) and a matter-of-fact German-Jewish doctor (Frances McDormand). As their survival instincts become worn down over time, Pargiter and missionary Margaret "Daisy" Drummond decide to form a vocal orchestra, reconstructing by memory complex arrangements of classical works by composers such as Dvorak and Ravel.

Practicing in small groups so as not to arouse the suspicions of their captors, the women's voices are ultimately brought together, creating a spine-tingling, ethereally uplifting sound that holds their hope aloft in the face of bleak uncertainty.

Despite the potentially oppressive nature of the material, Beresford takes advantage of the ample opportunities for humor, given the various ethnic and social differences of the prisoners. Those diverse attributes are expertly conveyed by this wonderful cast.

Close turns in one of the finest performances of her career as the choir's conductor and the group's unofficial spiritual leader. It's a portrayal that radiates tremendous pride, fearlessness, warmth and vulnerability. Also terrific is Collins, doing her best big screen work since "Shirley Valentine", as well as McDormand (despite an occasionally shaky German accent that sounds as if it came from studying Marlene Dietrich recordings) as the stoically ironic Dr. Verstak.

Behind-the-scenes work is just as impressive, including the vivid lenswork of frequent Beresford collaborator Peter James ("Driving Miss Daisy") and production designer Herbert Pinter (Beresford's "Black Robe"). While Ross Edwards' score is similarly effective, it's understandably overshadowed by those remarkable vocal orchestrations, which have been recreated from the original handwritten notes smuggled out of the camps. It's a sound that remains long after the images fade.

PARADISE ROAD

Fox Searchlight Pictures

A Village Roadshow Pictures/YTC Pictures production

in association with Planet Pictures

Director-screenwriter:Bruce Beresford

Producers:Sue Milliken, Greg Coote

Executive producers:Andrew Yap and Graham Burke

Based on a story by:David Giles and Martin Meader

Director of photography:Peter James

Production designer:Herbert Pinter

Editor:Timothy Wellburn

Costume designer:Terry Ryan

Music:Ross Edwards

Color/stereo

Cast:

Adrienne Pargiter:Glenn Close

Margaret Drummond:Pauline Collins

Susan Macarthy:Cate Blanchett

Dr. Verstak:Frances McDormand

Topsy Merritt:Julianna Margulies

Rosemary Leighton-Jones:Jennifer Ehle

Mrs. Roberts:Elizabeth Spriggs

Sister Wilhelminia:Joanna Ter Steege

Mrs. Dickson:Wendy Hughes

Running time -- 123 minutes

MPAA rating: R

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2 items from 1997


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