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EDITIONS
Monday, 16 December, 2002, 18:50 GMT
Dirty Pretty Things
Stephen Frears
Newsnight Review discussed Stephen Frears's movie Dirty Pretty Things.



(Edited highlights of the panel's review)

MARK LAWSON:
Ian Rankin, a human heart in a U-bend in a hotel. A pretty stunning premise for a plot. Does it then live up to it?

IAN RANKIN:
It's not a new plot device. Crime writers have been using this kind of thing for decades, this urban myth about people waking up in hotel baths having been drugged. The bath is full of ice, and why?, because one of your kidneys is missing. I wasn't surprised to see it, but it lifted it above what the film might have been. We have seen films and stories about illegal asylum-seekers in Britain. Usually Jeremy Irons is playing a Polish immigrant or whatever, and it's dour. This is a film with a lot of 'heart', ahem, I thank you. I think it did make an interesting companion piece. The last film I saw was 'The Quiet American'. It seems very Graeme Greeneish. A character says, "The most dangerous thing in the world is a virtuous man". I thought if Greene didn't write that, he should have. He starts with a moral dilemma; that he can't go to the police because he is an illegal immigrant, and then compromise follows. It's very grim. If we are not in a hospital laundrette, we are in the back of a minicab and men are being checked to see if they have VD, or we are in a mortuary or sweat shop. Places you never see. You get the idea these are invisible people walking amongst us all the time but we never see them.

PHILLIP HENSHER:
This film in a way transforms the way you look at the world. Last night, coming out of the screening, I did have a little pause and look at the security guard at Film Four and just kind of imagined his life. It does change it. The recreation of the world, the glimpse into this society, is so fascinating and absorbing that you almost regret it has a plot at all. It has a very ingenious, elaborate, absorbing thriller plot, but that's not the thing you take away from it. It's just this sense of other people's lives. I was very drawn by it.

MARK LAWSON:
The tone also surprised me. It's a very political subject, asylum-seekers, certainly if this is what's happening to them, but it's not made as a political or angry film. It's this rather light film, in many ways.

JEANETTE WINTERSON:
It's neither the political element nor the thriller element that makes it so good. This is real 'Dante's Inferno'. You go down and down into the circles of hell and each is worse than the one before, and there is no escape or redemption, except the goodness that you can find in your own heart, which is why it's such a moral, transformatory film.

IAN RANKIN:
I think the casting is very good. The sleazy, behind the scenes members of staff. The tart with the heart is maybe a cliché, but some of the people who work in the hotel, you get the sense of an oiliness to them. You come away wanting to wash your hands when you leave the cinema. I think the acting is superb.

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06 Nov 02 | Entertainment
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