Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

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(1997) ★★★

BBC2: Sunday 11 October, 12am

New York writer John Cusack seduced by Southern hospitality when covering a colourful murder case in Savannah. Prominent citizen Kevin Spacey, a wealthy antiques dealer and courtly host of fashionable annual Christmas parties, has shot his secret gay lover. Clint Eastwood returns to the twilit world of Tightrope territory with this leisurely look at an eccentric and exclusive community.

With a fine cast responding to an elegant script, this is an engrossing picture –derived from author John Berendt’s dramatisation of an actual trial –that displayed Eastwood’s maturity as a film-maker on the way to his rich vein of form in the first decade of the new century: Mystic River, Flags of Our Fathers, Letters From Iwo Jim a, The Changeling,Gran Torino (and yet it was Million Dollar Baby that bagged the Oscar).

Letting Midnight’s strange, secretive story unfold at a pace befitting the sultry Georgian setting, Eastwood uses a string of Johnny Mercer songs on the soundtrack to pointed effect. Mercer is fondly regarded by proud locals as a son of Savannah and the town has its own persepctive on life. As Spacey’s lawyer points out “saving face in the light of unpleasant circumstances is the Savannah way.”

Cusack is hooked on the exotic atmosphere from the outset: “This placeis fabulous,” he tells his editor, breathlessly. “It’s like Gone With the Wind on mescalin. They walk imaginary dogs on leashes and they’ reall on drugs. New York is boring.”

Certificate: 15

Duration: 149min

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