FAR FROM HEAVEN (Todd Haynes)
Bowling For Columbine (Michael Moore)
Just in time for awards season, two of the year's most honoured films are playing in non-multiplex settings.
Julianne Moore, starring in Todd Haynes's Far From Heaven, has picked up best-actress laurels from virtually every major critics group except, ironically, the New York Film Critics Circle, which named Far From Heaven best picture.
I'm not sure I'd rate it that highly, but Moore gives a stunning iceberg performance; nine-tenths of it is below the surface, which doesn't mean you can't feel its heat. The film fascinates as a relentless reflection/recreation of 50s Hollywood melodrama. An unofficial but visually exact remake of Douglas Sirk's All That Heaven Allows, it pushes up into the light all the stuff that the 50s jammed down into the cracks and spackled over. (Fox, January 2-7)
At the other end of the cinematic continuum is Michael Moore's rawly provocative Bowling For Columbine, which has been picking up various bits of metal since it premiered at Cannes in May. One knee-jerk reaction is to dismiss it as anti-gun propaganda, but that misses its true subject: the predominance of fear in U.S. culture. Winner of, among other things, the Toronto Film Critics Association prize for best documentary of 2002. (Kingsway, January 3-8)