Page 10, 6th October 1989

6th October 1989
Page 10
Page 10, 6th October 1989 — Lifeless wicket for team tussle

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Lifeless wicket for team tussle

Cinema by Clive Fisher

TEAM spirit, or its school variant, house spirit, is a dangerous thing and people who take it seriously seem to me to be obviously psychologically scarred. Although in principle collective achievement is no less impressive than individual effort, in practice it often carries disquieting undertones.

Team spirit entails pressure to conform, subjugation of personal aims, repression of individualism and, ultimately, a rejection of other opinions; a denial, in other words, of everything that makes life worthwhile. It is the crucial cohesive of armies, the force that compels mass demonstrations and, in corrupted form, what turns a demonstration into a battle.

These are my prejudices now and for the future. But I can trace them directly back to my school days. I could never give a tinker's curse which house won which wretched cup and if I looked for idols at all at school, it was certainly not amongst the conquering heroes of the games pitches.

In an ideal world, I would never think of seeing Major League (Odeon, Leicester Sq, "15"). But anyone who thinks that film reviewers subsist exclusively on a rarified diet of first-rate features with established stars leavened by witty and ironic European cinema must reconsider. Amongst the arts, cinema shows a disproportionately high level of mediocre activity. Major League reunites the stars of Platoon, Tom Berenger and Charlie Sheen. There they were called upon to show the team spirit of soldiers; here, as members of the Cleveland Indians, they are bound together by the camaraderie of baseball players. The impoverished plot of this unfunny comedy (I laughed once) proceeds as follows: the new owner (Margaret Whitton) of the Indians decides to run down the fortunes of the club so that she can move the franchise from Ohio to Florida (the frying pan to the fire, I should have thought).

The script has no interest in subtlety or ambiguity of characterisation and to prove to even the meanest intelligence that she is a villain, Whitton publicly smokes, an activity unknown now to American heroes.

As the Indians team comprises bungling amateurs and superannuated athletes, it looks as though her HI-willed enterprise will succeed. Needless to say, she reckons without Berenger's qualities of leadership and the American fear of failure. In no time at all (precisely, 107 limping minutes), in response to Berenger's appeals for team spirit, the Indians have climbed from bottom, to top, of the league, aided by banal jokes, trite characterisation, predictable love interests. If sport contains one valuable lesson that victory isn't all it has certainly been forgotten here.

We Think The World Of You (Cannon, Piccadilly, "PG") also takes fine actors Gary Oldman, Alan Bates, Max Wall and produces a bad film. It is based on a largely autobiographical novel by Joseph Ackerley, Set in the early fifties, this could be called "The End of the Affair." Affluent, middle-class Frank (Bates), Ackerley's self-portrait, and working-class Johnny (Oldman) watch their love die; and have neither the determination nor the energy, nor help from circumstances, to prevent it.

Since the brilliant An Englishman Abroad, Alan Bates has begun to disconcert and bore his many admirers with his repeated studies of middle-class, middle-aged, homosexual loneliness. His acting is increasingly mannered too, though still very watchable and his neck, as Cecil Beaton remarked, is still "inhumanly large".

It was reassuring to discover in his recent stage Much Ado that middle-aged heterosexual love is still within his ken.

But this film could also be called "Lassie, Come Home" since most of its interest was focussed on the squabbles between the two about their dreadful dog, Evie.

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