By Sherrie Li
By Falling James
By Amanda Lewis
By Amy Nicholson
By Amy Nicholson
By Jennifer Swann
By Scott Foundas
By Sherrie Li
IT HADN'T DAWNED ON ME TILL NOW, BUT BRITISH novelist Julian Barnes' (Flaubert's Parrot)first work of fiction, Metroland, bears striking thematic similarities to George Orwell's wonderful satire Keep the Aspidistra Flying. Though separated by four decades, both books deal with young men who, discontented with their comfortable middle-class lives, hanker for boho excitement, get in over their heads and come to appreciate the simple pleasures of home. There's honor in that, if only because suburbia is an easy mark for facile social critique and could use a little imaginative promotion. Orwell's novel was charmingly adapted into the movie A Merry War, but after a miserable run in New York, it was all but dumped from L.A. theaters last year by its distributor. Far more deserving of that fate is Philip Saville who, even with high-profile help from Emily Watson and Christian Bale, has eviscerated whatever there was of social critique in Metroland and replaced it with a pat homily on the emptiness of presumptive '60s hedonism. Assisted by a dreadful screenplay from Adrian Hodges that has the main characters declaiming topics rather than talking to one another, Saville has fashioned a doggedly prosaic carve-up of Metroland featuring Bale, sheepish in a '70s shag, as Chris, a married man in his 30s whose vague fantasies of extramarital sex are fanned unto fever by the arrival of his old friend Toni (Lee Ross, an almost-hunk with cruel lips and carefully torn denim shirt). The two insufferable men mull over the '60s, when they were insufferable young snobby louts. There follow innumerable arch flashes back to Chris' stag days as a photographer in Paris, most of which were spent in athletic communion with a sultry but intellectually limited Parisian secretary (Elsa Zylberstein), until he was dragged off to a sensible life by his future wife, Marion (an unaccountably listless Watson). Will Chris cleave to the sensible life or sleep with a hussy he meets at one of Toni's sex parties? Will he ditch the bad hair in time for the '80s? Replete with false dilemmas and directed with all the animation of a tableau vivant, Metroland is such a draggy bore that when the crack of Bale's presentable rear end was momentarily bared to the camera, I sat up straight and greeted it as if it were the Second Coming.
DR. AKAGI | Directed by SHOHEI IMAMURA | Written by IMAMURA and DAISUKE TENGAN | Based on the book Dr. Liver by ANGO SAKAGUCHI | Produced by HISA INO and KOJI MATSUDA | Released by Kino International | At the Nuart
METROLAND | Directed by PHILIP SAVILLE | Written by ADRIAN HODGES | Based on the novel by JULIAN BARNES | Produced by ANDREW BENDEL | Released by Lion's Gate Films | At selected theaters
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