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Monger Mingles Fact, Fiction In ‘Englishman’

Fri., Dec. 15, 1995

When a filmmaker decides to take a real-life incident and portray it on screen, he or she has a right - some might say obligation - to take certain creative liberties.

Everyone should know, after all, that an Oliver Stone film is only one side of history, one aspect to the truth. It is not, nor is it meant to be seen as, a documentary-like mirror held up to reflect actual events.

So some of us find it aggravating when filmmakers insist on mixing reality with fiction - the way director Christopher Monger does with his film “The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill and Came Down a Mountain” (see capsule review below).

Based on a true story that occurred in a small Welsh village, Monger’s film ends with the descendants involved in the event gathered on the top of the hill-mountain in question. The obvious implication is: These are the people whose story you just bore witness to.

But is the implication true?

It’s not like Monger is doing anything so unusual. Such cinematic luminaries as Steven Spielberg and Spike Lee have done the same. Spielberg ended his “Schindler’s List” with the Schindler employees and their descendants paying homage to the industrialist’s grave. Lee ended his “Malcolm X” with a long tribute to the man whom Denzel Washington had just finished playing on the screen.

So should we hold Monger up to higher expectations? Of course not. Then again, we shouldn’t applaud him any more than we should Spielberg or Lee of any other filmmaker who insists on creating fiction and presenting it as fact.

Both “Schindler’s List” and “Malcolm X” are superb movies. Both, though, are “based” in fact, not necessarily representative of it. Spielberg’s film, in fact, is based on a book by Australian writer Thomas Keneally that won the Book Prize for fiction.

Say this much for Oliver Stone: You always know that he’s telling things his own way.

The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill and Came Down a Mountain

***

Hugh Grant, playing the diffident character that he has become so associated with, portrays an English surveyor ordered to measure the height of a peak overlooking a remote Welsh village. When he and his supervisor decide that the peak is less than 1,000 feet, thereby relegating it to the status of a hill and not worthy of being mentioned on a map, Colm Meany leads the village folk in an effort to add 20 feet and make up the difference. Comedy ensues, and Tara Fitzgerald (“Sirens”) is delightful to look at as Grant’s romantic interest. Rated PG.

First Knight

**

Director Jerry Zucker (“Ghost”), whose career has been built on such comic projects as “Airplane!” and “Naked Gun,” does a non-musical, non-comedic version of “Camelot” with Sean Connery as King Arthur, Julia Ormond (“Legends of the Fall”) as Guinevere and Richard Gere (?!?) as Lancelot. The result is humorous, albeit unintentionally, with some cool gadgets (hand-held crossbows that are as accurate, and deadly, as Star Fleet phasers) and some great visuals (a battle in shining armor at night!). But there is little that passes for story logic, and Gere, though better than you might expect, is too contemporary to be a convincing Lancelot. Where are the Monty Python boys when we really need them? Rated PG-13.

Judge Dredd

**

Despite some fairly impressive special effects, not the least of which are Sylvester Stallone’s blue eyes, this adaptation of a popular British comic-book character is fairly pedestrian. Think “RoboCop” meets “Cobra.” It’s fairly close, in terms of plot anyway, to Sly’s previous venture into sci-fi: “Demolition Man.” Only the love interest here is Diane Lane instead Sandra Bullock, and the villain is Armand Assante instead of Wesley Snipes. And the attempts at humor are distinctly less humorous. Rated R.

, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: What’s new to view Now available: “First Knight” (Columbia TriStar), “Judge Dredd” (Buena Vista), “Men of War” (Buena Vista), “The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill and Came Down a Mountain” (Buena Vista), “Lap Dancing” (TEV), “Canadian Bacon” (Polygram), “Land Before Time 3” (MCA/Universal), “Twin Sitters” (Columbia TriStar), “Mutant Species” (LIVE), “Probable Cause” (LIVE). Available Tuesday: “Clueless” (Paramount), “Die Hard With a Vengeance” (Fox), “Playback” (Paramount), “Indecent Behavoir 3” (TBA), “Belle de Jour” (Miramax), “Rent a Kid” (TBA).

This sidebar appeared with the story: What’s new to view Now available: “First Knight” (Columbia TriStar), “Judge Dredd” (Buena Vista), “Men of War” (Buena Vista), “The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill and Came Down a Mountain” (Buena Vista), “Lap Dancing” (TEV), “Canadian Bacon” (Polygram), “Land Before Time 3” (MCA/Universal), “Twin Sitters” (Columbia TriStar), “Mutant Species” (LIVE), “Probable Cause” (LIVE). Available Tuesday: “Clueless” (Paramount), “Die Hard With a Vengeance” (Fox), “Playback” (Paramount), “Indecent Behavoir 3” (TBA), “Belle de Jour” (Miramax), “Rent a Kid” (TBA).



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