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In The Cut PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sheila Seacroft   
15 11 2004

Directed by Jane Campion

in the cutWell, let's get the most talked about aspect of this film over with - yes, you do get to see an awful lot of Meg Ryan, not to mention co-star Mark Ruffalo, plus a chance to compare her renowned acting of a fake orgasm with that of lots of real ones. So those who go to the film for that reason will no doubt feel satisfied. Others expecting a serial killer flick will probably be disappointed, because on that level the film just doesn't  work.

Frannie (an almost unrecognisable Ryan) is a muddled, unfulfilled English teacher who roams New York reading the poems on the underground, collecting quotations, and teaching adolescents, with one of whom, Cornelius (Sharieff Pugh), she rather unadvisedly hangs around in a lowdown bar, researching slang. She is both alarmed and fascinated when she inadvertently witnesses shadowy sexual activity downstairs.

In The CutThere's a murder in Frannie's neighbourhood, and she is immediately attracted to the cop (Ruffalo) who comes round to investigate. Another corpse is found, Frannie gets attacked in the street, we're not at all sure about Ruffalo. ... the tension should be getting to us, but it's not.For some reason, although presented with the statutory clues to the identity of the killer, you just don't care. They may as well not have bothered with poor Kevin Bacon's character - a mad ex of Frannie's, who dresses in scrubs, keeps a hairless dog, and has Outbursts in the street. Not even a contender. And there's her devoted student, who reveals his special research subject is Gacy, the serial killer. Too obvious. Then there's the cop - the fact that he's got the same tattoo as the killer has got to be a false lead. Hasn't it? But somehow there's no frisson.

And yet, and yet... I have to confess that despite all this I really enjoyed the film, for quite different reasons. I liked Ryan's performance very much, great to see a heroine so muddled, so intelligent and foolish, so unlike those smart-arse martial arts types we've seen so much of. It is an extremely beautiful film, from the dreamy opening sequence to the very edgy New York street and metro scenes, with gorgeous colours and textures, to the lingering gaze on bodies and faces. As a meditation on loneliness and the longing for a shape to one's life it is magical.

woman drivers!Being a Jane Campion film, there is a clear feminist agenda, signalled by the haunting version of 'Che sarÓ, sarÓ' at the opening, and the symbols come thick and fast - including one ludicrously obvious phallic symbol. An object of longing, threat, or ridicule? It seems that throughout she is posing questions rather than supplying answers. Is Frannie actually seeking the good old Freudian twins love and death when she recognises the significant tattoo on her lover's wrist? And what moral are we to draw from the end? That a woman can survive only by putting on a man's garment and using a man's weapon? Still, I'm not sure why, but I came out of the cinema into a rain-swept Newcastle feeling good, feeling that the world was a beautiful place, and what more can you ask of a film, in the end?

www.sonypictures.com/homevideo/inthecut/

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