Stylistically distinctive (with a rhythmically inventive use of jump cuts), impressively acted (by Jean-Francois Stevenin, Yves Afonso, and Carole Bouquet), and simultaneously unpredictable and rather bewildering as narrative, Jean-Francois Stevenin’s second feature, made in 1986, looks like nothing else in contemporary French cinema. Stevenin, who is mainly known as a rather ubiquitous actor, plays a character who accidentally runs into a boyhood chum (Afonso); together they decide to pay a surprise visit to another mutual childhood friend who now lives outside Grenoble–a mysterious figure who never makes an appearance and the film basically charts their long wait together, largely in the company of the missing friend’s wife (Bouquet). Arresting visually as well as aurally (the film is in direct sound), Double Messieurs manages to make all of its characters and their behavior sad as well as mysterious; a sense of broken dreams and an irretrievable past lurks behind the fitful, random actions and picturesque settings. Crew members are utilized in the cast, and Stevenin’s bizarre notations on the “buddy” movie stay firmly lodged in one’s memory. A Chicago premiere. (Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Saturday and Sunday, January 9 and 10, 6:00 and 8:00, 443-3737)… Read more »
Daily Archives: January 8, 1988
Probably the most ferociously effective and polemically potent women’s prison film ever made, John Cromwell’s 1950 melodrama charts the gradual hardening of an innocent 19-year-old (Eleanor Parker) in relation to the brutality of her surroundings. Parker and Hope Emerson (as a sadistic prison guard) both received Oscar nominations for their roles here; others in the cast include Agnes Moorehead as the warden, Ellen Corby, Jan Sterling, Jane Darwell, and Gertrude Michael, all of them impressive. In many respects, this Warner Brothers film resembles the best and toughest socially conscious movies turned out by that studio during the 30s; a rare 35-millimeter archive print will be shown. (Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Tuesday, January 12, 8:00, and Wednesday, January 13, 6:00, 443-3737)… Read more »
This is the first ten-best round-up I ever did for the Chicago Reader, which ran in their January 8, 1988 issue. Having recently been reading the Library of America’s mammoth collection of Manny Farber’s film criticism (which is coming out in September), I’ve become especially aware of how much one’s taste and preferences tend to change over time. Today, for instance, I suspect I would have placed Mélo in the number #1 slot, and probably wouldn’t include House of Games or Universal Hotel/Universal Citizen in the also-rans but would move them both up to the main list. The first photo, incidentally, directly below, is from Godard’s still woefully neglected King Lear.-–J.R.
What is the meaning of a ten best list? For me, at any rate, it means a list of movies with the highest possible mystery quotient — the movies that fascinate me the most because they still have secrets to withhold. And the best litmus test that I know for determining this quality is repeat viewings. If a movie that knocked me out seems less mysterious after a return visit — as was the case with Broadcast News, Cross My Heart, and Orphans — then it doesn’t belong on the list.… Read more »