What To Watch This Week: Trust, Essential Killing and A Cock And Bull Story

David Schwimmer shows his range as a director, Vincent Gallo turns to the Taliban and Michael Winterbottom films an unfilmable book...
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David Schwimmer shows his range as a director, Vincent Gallo turns to the Taliban and Michael Winterbottom films an unfilmable book...

Trust

While virtually every other movie made by or featuring a member of the Friends cast has been a catastrophe, Trust is a real piece of work. Indeed, between this, the amiable Run, Fatboy, Run and the rather good if rarely seen Since You've Been Gone, Schwimmer’s suggested he has range as a director that he doesn’t have as a performer

The frighteningly precocious Liana Liberato plays Annie, a teen who enjoys an on-line friendship with Charlie. When Charlie suggests the pair meet up, Annie is only too happy to put a face to a familiar name. Charlie, however, isn't a high schooler with a thing for Glee and Hayden Panettiere. No, he's a 40-year-old bloke whose designs on Annie couldn't be more deplorable.

With Oscar nominees Clive Owen and Catherine Keener playing Annie's appalled parents, Trust might seem like a rather starry affair. However, as its subject matter will discourage many people from catching it, so Schwimmer's film is more interested in a complex issue than in winning awards for worthiness. In a recent Time Out interview, the director remarked that, when the twentysomething Carey Mulligan was cast in An Education, the audience was all but let off-the-hook - the most contentious aspect of the story (a man in his forties dating a 16-year-old school girl) being rendered utterly safe by the actress's real age. In casting Liberato - who was 15 when Trust was made - Schwimmer has been accused of everything from courting controversy to titillating the grubby raincoat brigade. In truth, the only sin he's committed is to have made an honest movie.

Oh, and while we're on the cinema front, if you're one of those people who's lucky/unlucky enough to live in London, the BFI Southbank is screening Sam Peckinpah's classic Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid on July 12. If you haven't seen this epic western then you are a twat and must amend this situation immediately.

Essential Killing

He's a one, that Vincent Gallo. From backing right-wing causes of a sort most people would run away from to openly supporting the sporting of fur, you could be forgiven for thinking the Buffalo '66 star only makes movies when he can't think of any other way to shock people.

On the face of it, Essential Killing is a pretty sensational exercise. Gallo plays Mohammed, a Taliban supporter who's whisked overseas for interrogation after being captured by the Americans. Exposed to horrific treatment at the hands of his captors, Mohammed eventually manages to escape. But no sooner is he free of the enemy than the Afghani finds himself at the mercy of a foreign land and a brutal Eastern European winter.

If this précis has you frothing at the mouth, it'd probably be a good idea to back away from the computer and retreat to the comfort of Fox News. Those whose mind are even the slightest bit open should quickly grasp that Essential Killing has less to do with celebrating the Taliban than with exploring the human spirit and the limits of endurance.

And as for Gallo... well, he's magnificent. Almost entirely deprived of his speaking voice, his performance is a marvellous recommendation for the Method. According to writer-director Jerzy Skolimowski, the actor spent entire days running barefoot over frozen rock faces. Come the end of Essential Killing, don't be surprised if you find yourself reaching for the Deep Heat and a pack of plasters.

Speaking of Skolimowski, if that rather unusual name sounds even the slightest bit familiar, then it might have something to do with Moonlighting, the film about illegal immigrant labour that he made with Jeremy Irons in 1982. Perhaps Poland's greatest filmmaker after Roman Polanski, Skolimowski also shot one of the most underrated British movies of the 1970s. Deep End (1970) has just been re-released by the BFI as part of its Flipside series. Swapping the kitchen sink for a swimming pool, it's a drama with plenty to recommend it, not least that it proves there's more to Jane Asher than not marrying Paul McCartney and nice cakes.

A Cock And Bull Story, BBC2 on Sunday July 17 at 11.35pm

Last week, I rashly described Steve Coogan's performance in In The Loop as his best big-screen work since 24 Hour Party People. Of course, Coogan's best post-Tony Wilson turn is in fact his marvellous meta performance in A Cock And Bull Story.

A brave adaptation of Laurence Sterne's impossible-to-adapt Tristram Shandy, Winterbottom's movie sees Coogan play Steve Coogan, an egotistical comic actor with a young family and an eye for the ladies. As for his co-star Rob Brydon, he plays Rob Brydon, a man with a real gift for mimicry and for getting under Coogan's skin. But not content with played exaggerated versions of one another, Coogan and Brydon also essay the key characters in Sterne’s books, the aforementioned Tristram and his brother Captain Toby Shandy.

Scripted by Frank Cottrell Boyce (who sadly fell out with long-time collaborator Michael Winterbottom during the making of the film), A Cock And Bull Story is as brilliantly clever as it is wonderfully silly. From the real Tony Wilson coming on set to interview Coogan to a characteristically superb performance from Shirley Henderson, there's a definite whiff of Party People about proceedings. But while that Winterbottom-Cottrell Boyce production played with the notion of biography, A Cock And Bull Story dares to ask whether it's possible to address something as complex as a man's life through the medium of a motion picture. That it also allows Coogan and Brydon to spar in the same fashion that made Winterbottom's The Trip so much fun makes this one of those rare comedies where the brain and the funny bone are equally engaged.

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