The Raggedy Rawney

Directorial debuts by actors are most often inauspicious, and films set in no particular country or period are usually worth avoiding. But Bob Hoskins’s first feature as a director, with an original script that he cowrote (with Nicole De Wilde), is a remarkable effort in many respects. During a long war in an unspecified European country, a young recruit named Tom (Dexter Fletcher) injures his officer during an enemy attack and flees from the camp. Disguising himself as a mute madwoman, he is taken in by a gypsylike band headed by Hoskins, whose daughter (Zoe Nathenson) becomes Tom’s lover. This film, which feels like a western in certain spots and a medieval fantasy in others (without ever really becoming either), belongs to no clearly established category, though the ambiguity about both genre and gender, as well as the picaresque and pastoral qualities, occasionally suggests the equally uncategorizable and even more exquisite Sylvia Scarlett (1935). From the opening shot, Hoskins shows a genuine camera sense, and he proves to have a fine sense of ensemble acting as well. He also knows how to take full advantage of the beauties of nature and landscape (the film was shot in Czechoslovakia, with production design by Jiri Matolin). And if he occasionally fudges or glosses over a plot point or two, there’s still a touch of magic here that may stay with you for some time. With Zoe Wanamaker, Timothy Lang, and Gawn Grainger (1987). (JR)

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