Friday, April 29, 2011

Michael Radford's "Another Time, Another Place"


Writer/director Michael Radford captures the cold and misery of WWII Scotland perfectly in this pretty but dense romance.

Phyllis Logan is Janie, a typically sexually frustrated farm working housewife looking to get out of her dead end station in life. A trio of Italian prisoners of war are trucked into the tiny town to help out the local farmers. There is the bespectacled Umberto (Gian Luca Favilla), the smoldering Paolo (Claudio Rosini), and the despondent Luigi (Giovanni Mauriello). As the trio have settled next door, Janie visits and tries to be polite, until Luigi makes a pass at her. She refuses, but the grunt farm work translates into grunt sex work with her ham fisted husband, so eventually she relents.

The viewer is taken aback right away at the affair, since it is assumed that hunky Paolo would win out over mousy Luigi. Eventually, Luigi is getting bored, and starts flirting with Else (Carol Ann Crawford). In one of those "it only happens in the movies" moments, Luigi and Janie meet in the woods for one last roll in the ravioli at the exact same moment Else is being raped by an unidentifiable Italian POW. Janie must then decide, come forward as Luigi's alibi or stay quiet, since the war is just over anyway and she will never see her lover again in either case.

The film, despite some absolutely breath taking scenery and cinematography, is also deathly dull. Janie and the prisoners do act naturally around each other, tentatively becoming friends. The entire rape subplot can be seen coming a mile away, and the movie's ending leaves more than a little to be desired.

Phyllis Logan is excellent as Janie. She resembles Emma Thompson, and her haggard appearance does not seem to be an act. The farm work dramatized here looks awful, I will never bitch about my warehouse job again. The rest of the cast is alright, although some of the Scottish accents take a while to comprehend. The Italians' conversations are never subtitled, letting the viewer try to figure out what is being said just as Janie must.

"Another Time, Another Place" is a beautiful film to look at. Once the plot tries to move, the whole thing dies, and by the end it resembles a badly written Harlequin romance novel. The scenery and Logan almost negate this, but only almost. (* *) out of five stars.