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Stress? I don't feel it; or rather I feel it but I thrive on it. It makes me feel alive, it makes me live intensely. It makes me feel intelligent; (perhaps it actually makes us intelligent; but a nervy city intelligence, not that contemplative wisdom we hope to find in the "country"). Urban stress is most genially embodied in the figure of Woody Allen. But two recent films deal with something bigger than the neurotic, existential angst of Allen. Falling Down begins in a freeway jam; there is a gradual crescendo of stress-inducing factors: the heat, a fly in Michael Douglas' car, the gross behaviour of the kids in the immobilised school bus next to his car; the noise, the rudeness; the Garfield toy in the windscreen of another car is made to appear almost diabolical. Finally Douglas gets out of his car and just…walks away, across a scrubby bit of wasteland to a Korean convenience store; there we learn more of his frustrations; a nostalgia for the America of the 50 cent soda. Indeed as the film progresses we realise that he is not a particularly viable Everyman; there is other baggage; and because this is Hollywood this means marital baggage and, yes post-Vietnam vet baggage. So I was disappointed in the film; but I suppose I must concede that urban stress as a topic alone is not enough to power a film through two hours.

Grand Canyon, as mentioned before, begins in classic yuppy nightmare mode; white man at night in the wrong part of LA, car won't start, carphone flat, prey to a black gang prowling the streets in a big white BMW lowrider. The tone is set; the city continues to deliver shocks. Everyone feels fear; fear is symbolised by the constant presence of helicopters, like exterminating angels, clattering overhead.

   
 

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