`Metroland' and `Tango' a step slow

Movies in brief

May 07, 1999|By Ann Hornaday | Ann Hornaday,SUN FILM CRITIC

"Metroland," Philip Saville's adaptation of the Julian Barnes novel that opens today at the Charles, features another steady performance from its star, Christian Bale, as well as a welcome unmannered turn from Emily Watson ("Breaking the Waves"). As a tasteful take on a minor novel, "Metroland" is genteel enough, but it lacks the urgency and scope of a must-see movie.

Bale and Watson play Chris and Marion, a married couple living in suburban London in 1977. Chris' best friend, Toni (Lee Ross), shows up, apparently in order to remind Chris that he's sold out and become one of the bourgeoisie that they were going to epater 10 years ago. "Metroland" traces Chris' ensuing mid-life crisis, spending a good deal of time on a flashback to Paris, where he fell in love with an earthy, uninhibited French girl, played with sparkling exuberance by Elsa Zylberstein.

Why Chris renounced this luscious marron glace for the drier respectability of Marion is never really clear, unless we're supposed to think he was a closet gray-flannel man all along. In its own modest, thoroughly respectable way, "Metroland" does a good job of evoking memory, regret and creeping resentment, even if it doesn't make for the most scintillating viewing.

"Metroland." Starring Christian Bale, Lee Ross, Emily Watson, Elsa Zylberstein. Directed by Philip Saville. Released by Lions Gate Films. Unrated (nudity, sexuality). Running time: 105 minutes. Sun score: **


The production notes for "Tango," also at the Charles, announce that the film's director, Carlos Saura ("Carmen," "Flamenco"), started filming without a script, a fact that is made painfully obvious throughout this rambling, sometimes incoherent production. Nominally about the Argentinian dance form that combines passion, precision and smoldering sensuality, "Tango" isn't nearly as disciplined or vigorous as its subject, meandering as it does between the story of one man's rather tiresome love life and a series of disjointed dance numbers.

Miguel Angel Sola stars as Mario Suarez, a movie director whose wife (Cecilia Narova) has recently left him and who embarks on a dangerous affair with a young dancer (Mia Maestro) during the production of his film.

"Tango" has its high points, including a visceral pas-de-deux featuring the ballet star Julio Bocca. But the dance numbers lose potency as "Tango" rambles on and finally unravels. When it does, lean back and enjoy Lalo Schifrin's magnificent score.

The composer, best known for his percussive "Mission: Impossible" theme, proves to be just as adept with his native Argentina's musical traditions as he is with his trademark jazzy syncopation, and he combines the two with lithe sonority.

"Tango." Starring Miguel Angel Sola, Cecilia Narova and Mia Maestro. Directed by Carlos Saura. Released by Sony Pictures Classics. Rated PG-13 (sensuality, some disturbing images and brief language). Running time: 115 minutes. Sun score: **

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