Daily Archives: May 1, 1989

Of Mice And Men

Lewis Milestone’s 1939 version of the John Steinbeck novel, which is largely remembered today for Lon Chaney Jr.’s performance as the feebleminded Lenny; Burgess Meredith plays his cousin who looks after him. Eugene Solow wrote the script, and Aaron Copland received an Academy Award nomination for his score. This is the first Hollywood feature with a precredits sequence. With Betty Field and Charles Bickford. (JR)… Read more »

Mon Oncle D’amerique

The first genuine hit in Alain Resnais’ career (1981) takes off from the behaviorist theories of French scientist Henri Laborit, which are illustrated by the stories of three separate characters (Gerard Depardieu, Roger Pierre, and Nicole Garcia), each of whom identifies with a different French movie star and whose lives occasionally cross. While the quasi-determinist theories of Laborit (who occasionally appears on-screen to lecture us in a white lab coat) are never very interesting or persuasive, the film can never really be reduced to them. What matters here is the fluidity of Resnais and screenwriter Jean Gruault’s masterful storytelling; they manage to convey a dense, multilayered narrative with remarkable ease and simplicity. The film is also memorable for its dead-on portrayal of French yuppiedom in its early ascendancy and for its beautifully ambiguous and open-ended finale. 123 min. (JR)… Read more »

Masks

A journalist and detective novelist (Robin Renucci) is hired to ghostwrite the memoirs of a famous TV-game-show host (Philippe Noiret) in a Hitchcockian thriller and guessing game devised by Claude Chabrol, working with coscreenwriter Odile Barski. This isn’t up to the level of Chabrol’s slightly earlier Poulet au vinaigre, but Chabrol fans should still beat a path to it. With Bernadette Lafont (1986). (JR)… Read more »

Loverboy

Patrick Dempsey stars as a college student who takes a job delivering pizza in Beverly Hills when his tuition is cut off by his father because of poor grades, and finds himself working profitably as a gigolo, in a strained comedy directed by Joan Micklin Silver (Hester Street) from a script by Robin Schiff, Tom Ropelewski, and Leslie Dixon. Part of the problem here is that, like many American sex comedies that deal chiefly with embarrassment, the overall mood tends to be more puritanically repressive than joyfulgiggly innuendo about the hero’s suspected gayness and a near brush with incest tend to dominate. Dempsey seems conspicuously miscast as the eponymous stud, but does manage to pull off a few moments of tolerable physical comedy. Costars include Carrie Fisher, Barbara Carrera, Kirstie Alley, and Kate Jackson. (JR)… Read more »

Lost Angels

Directed by Hugh Hudson (Chariots of Fire, Greystoke), this film about a troubled youth (Adam Horovitz) who is sent to a psychiatric hospital for middle-class teenagers, where he gradually grows to trust a caring doctor (Donald Sutherland), contains many echoes of liberal, socially conscious movies of the 50s and early 60s such as Rebel Without a Cause and The Mark. Written (by Michael Weller), directed, and acted with some tenderness and sensitivity, it doesn’t always live up to its models, but is an intelligent and thoughtful treatment of its subject on many levelsin its grasp of adolescent confusions, troubled family situations, institutional cynicism and expediency, and the fallibility of even exceptional doctors. With Dan Bloomfield, Amy Locane, Kevin Tighe, and Celia Weston. (JR)… Read more »

Listen To Me

Douglas Day Stewart (Thief of Hearts) wrote and directed this rather unexceptional and at times corny movie about three ambitious college studentsan Oklahoma farm boy (Kirk Cameron) whose debating skill has won him a scholarship, another scholarship student and debater (Jami Gertz) who is haunted by a youthful trauma, and a wealthy senior (Tim Quill) who is expected to follow in his father’s footsteps and go into politics but would rather be a writer. Roy Scheider plays the debate coach, and other costars include Amanda Peterson, George Wyner, and Anthony Zerbe. (JR)… Read more »

The Last Temptation Of Christ

A 1988 adaptation of Nikos Kazantzakis’s controversial novel. Neither the best nor the worst of Martin Scorsese’s films, but possibly the most ambitious, it more or less inverts the principles of his religiously informed New York films by being a religious film informed by some of the cadences, intonations, and attitudes of New York. The efforts to plant this story in a contemporary vernacular are not always successful but the performances are uniformly fine in their adherence to the material, and consistently avoid any vulgarity or showboating. Concentrating on the humanity and fallibility of Jesus in continual conflict with his divinity, the film falters as a contemporary statement mainly in its primitive view of women, who are allowed to signify nothing beyond sexual temptation and maternity. Filmed in Marrakech; with Willem Dafoe (as Jesus), Harvey Keitel, Barbara Hershey, Verna Bloom, Andre Gregory, Randy Danson, David Bowie, Barry Miller, and Harry Dean Stanton. Paul Schrader wrote the screenplay. R, 163 min. (JR)… Read more »

Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade

Steven Spielberg’s mechanical, soulless 1989 follow-up to Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. The fast pace and force-fed wisecracks are as seamless as ever, but rarely has audience laughter sounded as hollow. Jeffrey Boam wrote the script, based on an original story by executive producer George Lucas and Menno Meyjes, which concentrates on the relationship between Indiana (Harrison Ford) and his medievalist father (Sean Connery) as they search for the Holy Grail. (The action occurs both before and after the events of the two earlier Indiana Jones pictures.) Christianity, Nazism, Arthurian legend, antiquity, the third world, and women in general all serve as ballast and backdrop to the uneasy affection between a grown boy and his neglectful dad. Also on hand are River Phoenix as the young Indy, John Rhys-Davies, Alison Doody, Julian Glover, Denholm Elliott, and a lot of actors dressed up as Nazis. 127 min. (JR)… Read more »

Getting It Right

A shy London hairdresser (Jesse Birdsall), still a virgin at 31, finds himself getting involved with three very different women (Lynn Redgrave, Helena Bonham Carter, and Jane Horrocks) in a very pleasant romantic comedy directed by Randal Kleiser. Adapted by Elizabeth Jane Howard from her own novel, the film seems modeled in part on such 60s swinging London films as Georgy Girl and Morgan!as is suggested by the use of several actors associated with that period (Redgrave, Shirley Anne Field, Brian Pringle, Pat Heywood, and Nan Munro) and an overall ebullience in plot and performances. With Peter Cook and John Gielgud. (JR)… Read more »

Frida

Paul Leduc (Reed: Insurgent Mexico) gives us fragments from the life of painter and left-wing activist Frida Kahlo, presented in achronological flashbacks from her deathbed that eventually become more orderly. As with most biopics about artists, this 1985 film treats Kahlo’s life and work as almost interchangeable; it’s meditative, mainly visual (dialogue is kept to a minimum, and the striking, rich colors do full justice to Kahlo’s palette), and only intermittently dramatized. The overall effect is rather static, and Leduc supplies too little information for a comprehensive reading of Kahlo’s life and work, though her husband Diego Rivera and her association with Leon Trotsky are treated in some detail. Ofelia Medina is impressive and persuasive in the title role, and Juan Jose Gurrola and Max Kerlow offer believable versions of Rivera and Trotsky. In Spanish with subtitles. 108 min. (JR)… Read more »

The Deputy Angelina

One of Anna Magnani’s most celebrated early film parts, which won her a best-actress prize at the Venice film festival, was as a working-class woman who organizes her neighbors in Rome to fight for their rights in postwar Italy. Luigi Zampa directed this neorealist comedy-drama; Nando Bruno and Ave Ninchi also star (1947). (JR)… Read more »

Cold Feet

Keith Carradine, Sally Kirkland, and Tom Waits star as three contemporary western criminals in Mexico and Montana in an offbeat comedy scripted by novelists Tom McGuane and Jim Harrison and directed by Robert Dornhelm (Echo Park); other actors include Bill Pullman, Kathleen York, and Rip Torn, and Jeff Bridges in an uncredited cameo. Despite the distinguished cast and flavorsome dialogue, the film never manages to establish a rhythm of its ownthe fatuous music is well-nigh ruinous in this respectand the choppy narrative becomes increasingly stalled and sluggish as a consequence. But Waits, Kirkland, and Carradine all have their moments, and the grotesqueries of the plot (which involve hiding emeralds in the innards of a horse called Infidel in order to sneak them over the Mexican border) and characters (such as Waits’s cantankerous notions about health, individuality, and killing) are fitfully amusing. (JR)… Read more »

Chocolat

A mixture of colonialist nostalgia and revisionist attitudes about same, this semiautobiographical first feature (1988) by Claire Denis, former assistant to Rivette, Makavejev, Jarmusch, and Wenders (among others), is set and shot in Cameroon. A young Frenchwoman named France (Mireille Perrier) recalls her childhood in the late 50s as the daughter of a district officer (Francois Cluzet). The little girl (Cecile Ducasse) is mainly brought up by a kind and sensitive black servant (Isaach de Bankole) significantly named Protee after the many-sided god Proteus. Denis has some success in establishing the lazy, contemplative rhythms of life in such a place, which are partially upset when a group of travelers who are waiting for their plane to be repaired move in — an intrusion that brings diverse sexual, racial, and political undertones to the surface — although the episodic flow tends to set up an occasional self-consciousness and air of portent about the film’s apparent lack of pretension. As a first feature, this is respectable enough work, though the intelligence here seems at times closer to Louis Malle (for better and for worse) than to any of Denis’ former employers. With Giulia Boschi, Kenneth Cranham, Jean-Claude Adelin, and Emmet Judson Williamson; coscripted by Jean-Pol Fargeau.… Read more »

The Bandit

The film that, along with Open City, gave international prominence to Italian neorealism, this drama directed by Alberto Lattuada suggests a bleaker Italian equivalent to The Best Years of Our Livesa film about returning soldiers and their trouble readjusting at the end of World War II. Amedeo Nazzari plays a poor and unhappy veteran returning to Turin from a German POW camp; Anna Magnani plays a ruthless prostitute who seduces him into crime (1946). (JR)… Read more »

L’amore

Two justly celebrated short features by the great Roberto Rossellini, The Human Voice and The Miracle, both starring Anna Magnani, were combined into this 1948 feature, devoted, according to Rossellini, to earthly love and the beginning of divine love respectively. The first is an innovative adaptation of a one-act play by Jean Cocteau with only one on-screen character, recorded in direct sound; the second is a controversial tale (coscripted by Federico Fellini) about the seduction of a naive shepherdess by a man she believes is Saint Joseph. (JR)… Read more »