(PG) 99 mins .00

Old man of French Cinema Claude Chabrol has cast his favoured performer. lsabelle Huppert. as a femme fatale in MerCi Pour Le Chocolat. Or is she? Her Mika. heiress to a Swiss chocolate-making company. is a stone-faced businesswoman who gives away little of what's gomg on inside. It's that which creates the palpable sense of unease that pervades Chabrol’s film; somethings wrong and we can't be sure what. or rather who.

Neither can sparky young piano student Jeanne (Anna Mouglalis) who comes to Mika's home to meet her husband Andre (Jacques Dutronc). Jeanne and Andre's son by another woman. Guillaume (Rodolphe Pauly). were nearly switched at birth following a hospital mix up (or perhaps they were). Having only recently discovered this. Jeanne‘s keen to meet her almost father. They hit it off, not least because Andre's a professional pianist. who thinks he sees a prodigy in Jeanne. clockwork?

COMEDY DOWN TO EARTH (12) 87 mins 0

The route from stand-up star to successful actor isn't short of signposts; but a lot of them lead to dead ends. Just ask Lee Evans. who seemed to have it made after his supporting role in There's Something About Mary. only to mug ineffectually when asked to carry a BBC series. Rubber- faced comic Chris Rock (one of the ‘why say jokes when you can yelp them' school) has taken a very wrong turning in his first leading role.

Rock here plays stand-up Lance Barton. who seeks fame and fonune via the stage of the Harlem Apollo. The only flaw in Barton's lifeplan is his total inability to make anyone laugh. including the attractive Sontee (Regina King) whom he spies in the audience one fateful night. The fates concerned are two angels who. seeing him collide with a large truck on the way back from a disastrous gig. airlift him to heaven. a swanky 80s style club staffed by Italian-Americans in bad suits. The only problem is that Barton is still very much alive.

Offered a temporary home in the body of a white billionaire by way of recompense. Barton reluctantly accepts. and is catapulted into a world of wicked capitalists and treacherous gold-diggers. The ensuing debacle sees Rock chase the girl. give away his wealth (not that it was ever his in the first place) and milk the gags about being a thin black man in a fat white man's body.

Down To Earth wears its influences openly; it's a direct remake of Warren Beatty's 1978 film Heaven Can Wait. itself based on an earlier play. But this movie isn't just unoriginal: it‘s hopelessly derivative. borrowing chunks of Big, Wings Of Desire and Quantum Leap. and making them into an almighty mess. It's no surprise that Down To Earth is not distinguished by the shock of the new: but one might at least have hoped for a few good gags. Instead. Rock's stand-up routines are shoe-horned uncomfortably into dialogue. And. stripped of expletives and controversy. they hang as limply and appealineg as the hairs across a bald man's scalp. It's the way they tell ‘em. I guess. (James Smart)

I General release from Fri 8 Jun.

" '~ .il.-«

Hopelessly derivative remake of Heaven Can Wait

Which pisses off moody. untalented Guillaume no end. and. you get the impression. is a source of amusement to Mika. Is she jealous of Andre's previous wife. images of whom Guillaume adorns his walls with. the woman who died in a suspicious car accident? And just what is Mika up to spoon-feeding Andre and Guillaume hot chocolat every night like

A palpable sense of unease pervades Chabrol’s film

You may feel Chabrol's film adds up to less than the sum of its parts. but Dutronc. perpetually bleary-eyed with what? illness? world weariness?. and Huppert are excellent. That she's strangely forever young (she doesn't look that different from 1980's Heaven '5 Gate) only adds to the film's malaise of unease. (Miles Fielder)

I GET, Glasgow; Fi/mhouse. Edinburgh from Fri 8 Jun.

ROMANCE AUTUMN IN NEW YORK (15) 105 mins .00

Love Story-ster weepie

Actress Joan Chen made her directing debut in China three years ago with Xiu Xi'u: The Sent-Down Girl. the bleak but

moving tale of a fifteen-year-old girl sent into rural exile

during the Cultural Revolution. Autumn In New York. her first film for Hollywood. could not be more different.

This Love StOry-style weepie stars Richard Gere as a playboy restaurateur who goes from girlfriend to girlfriend until he meets kooky hat designer Winona Ryder. When he

reels off his standard cop-out line. ‘We have no future.‘ she

surprisingly agrees. She has a dodgy heart. But can she teach him about love before she dies? Ryder may be winsome. frail and supremely irritating. but

does she really deserve to die in order to redeem heartless Gere? Autumn In New York appears to share its audience's

unease. exaggerating the age difference between the stars (the 28-year-old Ryder plays a 22-year—old) and even hinting. briefly. at an Oedipal attachment. But there's no denying that it looks ravishing. From the austere chic of its interiors to the reds and golds of the Fall leaves in Central Park. Chen‘s film is to die for. (Jason Best)

I General release from Fri 75 Jun.

7—21 Jun 2001



Like last year's equally gleeful Otii/ls. this film deals with a period of French histon (the late 18th centum when bourgeOis phiIOSOphers set out their agenda on modern ethics and moralities. These were days when information was an all too rare commodity. but. ineVitably. their efforts drew the condemnation of the church and state. In Baron d'Holbach's Chateau. Diderot (Vincent Perez) is struggling to finish the thirteenth volume of his illicit encyclOpaedia in which he defines morality. In between tremendous bouts of Cunnilingus (and also some mere flirting) he

Great fun and very rude

questions his own Iibertarianism. When a Cardinal and a beautiful Prussian painter (Fanny Ardent). who are intent on finding the underground printing press. come to stay Diderot's life is transformed into a farce. This is basically Carry On Marquis aimed at philosophy lecturers having a mid-life crisis. Though often grating it rather obviously grinds ever more grit into the face of accepted ideals Le Libertin is never less than watchable; it's great fun and very rude. Perez as the swaggering decadent whose real talent was to gather brilliant minds around him is excellent. but this movie belongs to Josianne Balasko who plays Baroness d'Holbeck. our outrageously liberated guide through a lustful world. (Paul Dale) I GFT. Glasgow from Mon 78 Jun; Fi/mhouse. Edinburgh from Fri 22 Jun.