21 MARCH 1987, Page 41


The Green Ray

('PG', selected cinemas) She's Gotta Have It (`18', selected cinemas)

French lesson

Zenga Longmore

Last week I was merrily sitting at the pictures, eating popcorn, and laughing with my friend at a trailer of a film called Le Rayon Vert. 'Ever seen a more boring- looking film?' my friend chuckled. I shook my head and smirked, safe in the know- ledge that the tickets I had bought for the next day were for The Green Ray, and I could quite happily forget about Le Rayon Vert once the tedious trailer had come to an end. Ah, well-a-day. If only I had applied myself to my French lessons at school, instead of staring out of the win- dow like a demented cod, this sort of thing would never have happened. (For those of you who are as confused as I was, Le Rayon Vert is not a film about a nylon vest, but is none other than The Green Ray.) Seeing I had bought the tickets, and was wedged into my seat when the subtitles went up, I was condemned to make the most of things.

The gist of the film is this. A self-pitying young woman, who keeps crying for no apparent reason, finds that her boyfriend has wisely ditched her just before her holidays commence. This means that she has nothing to do in her two-week break, so she scrounges holidays left, right and centre from her pitiable friends. Because she is such a misery-guts, she wanders from Cherbourg to La Plagne and on to Biarritz, in a permanent state of grumpiness. So there you have it.

The film is purely improvised, with no scripted dialogue, so, as can be expected, there are a lot of slow conversations littered with long, painful silences. The director, Eric Rohmer, certainly succeeded in his quest for realism. It was exactly like being at home surrounded by boring guests whose language I couldn't understand.

Realism is all right in small doses, but a whole film of it seems a waste of every- one's time. You may as well sit in a launderette for a couple of hours.

In glorious contrast to this cold, Con- tinental cheerlessness is the brash, Amer- ican toothiness of Spike Lee's She's Gotta Have It. Now, if truth be known, I wasn't looking forward to this production, be- cause after reading Spike Lee's interviews I had become instantly wary of the man. He runs down every black star apart from himself, and sets himself up as the guiding light of the black community. If he's going to be arrogant, I thought, then he had jolly well better have something to be arrogant about. I was pleasantly surprised.

It is a good-natured, witty film about a young woman, Nola Darling, possessed of an insatiable appetite for the good things of life — men. She manages to juggle three male lovers, plus a lesbian friend thrown in for good measure. There's the sweet, dependable Jamie, the handsome go-getter Greer, and the madcap Mars, played with enthusiasm by Spike Lee, who also wrote, edited and directed the piece. Each man thinks he is God's gift, but, unfortunately for the chubby-cheeked Nola, all but one turn out to be Satan's booby prize. Filming in black and white on a very low budget, Spike Lee has managed to produce a highly entertaining film, with some spirited per- formances going on, the gold star going to John Canada Davies (Greer), whose looks are enough to cause any discerning woman's blood to flow in the opposite direction.

It is very refreshing to see black people portrayed in a light-hearted way like this, instead of being used solely as political mouthpieces. It is not a film to take granny to for an evening out, because of the graphic, rather unnecessary sex scenes, but you should certainly see it yourself. Spike Lee may be an arrogant old so-and-so, but he knows his celluloid.