EVERYONE I imagine, has played the game: whom should I choose as my solitary companion to share the desert island's pleasures, sun and sand? Television producers, normally so quick to capitalise on all human anxieties, failed to notice that one: Roy Plumley will not go down in history for courting the famous on that particular aspect of desert island risks. Some people prefer action to fantasy. Lucy Irvine answered Gerald Kingslandt-s advertisement for a "wife" and spent a year alone with him On the island of Tuin. CastaWay (Cannon, Shaftesbury Ave., '15') is based on her experiences.
Kingsland (Oliver Reed) is a middle-aged divorcee. I was unsure as to his profession (not that it really matters); but hobbies included magician's tricks, reading Bhuddist literature and drinking. Lucy (Amanda Donohoe) is a pretty young Sloane Ranger who works for the Inland Revenue; hobbies unspecified.
It all begins amusingly enough in the London of 1981. (An early sequence included a news bulletin revealing details of the engagement of the Prince of Wales. But attempts at historical accuracy were marred, in the location shooting, by the inclusion of C-registration cars, as a fussy friend of mine remarked.) And those of us who live here were kept happy spotting familiar landmarks. That pleasure, however, only lasts for ten minutes. Then they land on the island.
She immediately undresses and never really puts her clothes back on. (Although Nicholas Roeg's camera never follows her golden form with prurient or sensationalistic intent, Donohoe's nudity may prove to be one of Castaway's box-office strengths.) And we sit in dread, waiting for Reed to follow her.
No-one really condemned his nudity at the time of his heady collaboration with Ken Russell (many were still shaking off the after-effects of the Sixties); but a lot of liquid has flowed under the bridge since Women in Love. No wonder he has to go to a desert island to strip: a naked "Falstaffian" — bloated and red — is no. _ pretty sight. And that is about all that happens. (Based on real life, the film is bound to be uneventful to the point of tedium.) Their crops fail, they fish, they sunbathe, he complains about her refusal to have sex and mumbles obscene limericks, and she criticises his indolence. As heavy relief, Roeg includes a few observations of sub-aquatic life: we are jolted, inexplicably, from contemplation of some marine monstrosity to Reed, ugly in his desperation for drink, cigarettes and sex. Jacques Cousteau would have found it all most confusing.
Those who remember The Man Who Fell To Earth, Don't " Look Now and Bad Timing will wonder what the hitherto provocative and imaginative Roeg is doing here. He claims to be fascinated by the study of a man and a woman with nowhere to hide and no-one else in whom to confide. But I found myself longing to see both of them disappear and their confidences were just like any other squalid and monotonous domestic tirades. Despite the presence of the radiant Amanda Donohoe, a futile, tedious film.
Infinitely more worthwhile is Coming Up Roses ("Screen on the Hill, 'PG') In a depressed village in South Wales — where the only activity is the returning of unaffordable appliances bought on HP — the last cinema closes. To make matters worse, the ex-wife and sons of Trevor, the projectionist will soon become destitute unless £700 is found for mortgage repayments. The money is borrowed from Eli (the cinema-manager's) funeral fund on condition that Eli will be given the burial he wants should he die before repayment. His health promptly fails. Desperately attempting to avert disaster, Trevor and the icecream lady Mona, by now in love, formulate a scheme to redeem the money and pay for the funeral.
The village is at the mercy of remote forces. But this is never an acrimonious film: no accusatory finger is pointed at those responsible for the community's stagnation. Its opening sequence — of derelict Ritzes and Roxies — may be a lament for the Golden Age of matinee idols and cinema-going as a cheap escape; but the film is neither nostalgic nor defeatist. The search for £700 becomes a symbol of defiance, ingenuity, trust and resource in a close-knit community (rather like the Wall of Death motorbike riders that Eat the Peach). I was dreading a film about Wales made in Welsh, but this turned out to be a sharp, funny uplifting film, 'ppropriate to our times.