Monthly Archives: June 1989

Honey, I Shrunk the Kids

A charming and amiable Disney live-action feature, directed by newcomer Joe Johnston, about an inventor (Rick Moranis) who devises a gizmo that accidentally shrinks his two kids and their two friends (Amy O’Neill, Robert Oliveri, Jared Rushton, and Thomas Brown) to about a quarter of an inch high. While the plot abounds in improbabilities and even a few absurdities, and the special effects are uneven, the poetics of the basic idea really pay off: a suburban backyard is transformed into an endless jungle packed with adventures (including rides on a bumblebee and a friendly baby ant, and menacing attacks from a hose and a lawn mower). Written by Ed Naha and Tom Schulman, and based on a story by Stuart Gordon, Brian Yuzna, and Naha; the setting and at least one character–the neighbor kids’ father (Matt Frewer, best known as TV’s Max Headroom)–recall Joe Dante’s The ‘Burbs. On the same program is Tummy Trouble, a Roger Rabbit and Baby Herman cartoon directed by Rob Minkoff, with a live-action coda directed by Frank Marshall; the short isn’t quite as brilliant as Somethin’s Cookin’ (which opened Who Framed Roger Rabbit), but it’s full of extravagant Tex Avery-like action and reaction; Richard Williams unfortunately didn’t supervise the animation of this short, although some of his animators worked on it.… Read more »

The Man With Three Coffins

One of the boldest selections at the 1988 New York Film Festival, this experimental South Korean narrative feature, directed by Chang-ho Lee in 1987, seems closer in some ways to an Alain Resnais film than to most examples of Eastern cinema that come to mind. Interweaving several narrative strands and oscillating between the past and present, this allegorical parable is not always easy to follow in story terms, but its highly original editing, framing, and uses of color never fail to impress. (Facets Multimedia Center; 1517 W. Fullerton, Friday and Saturday, June 16 and 17, 7:00 and 9:00; Sunday, June 18, 5:30 and 7:30; and Monday through Thursday, June 19 through 22, 7:00 and 9:00; 281-4114)… Read more »

Miracle Mile

Written and directed by Steve DeJarnatt, this taut, apocalyptic thriller shows some improvement over DeJarnatt’s previous direction of Cherry 2000 (which was released in this country only on videotape), apart from some faulty continuity in the final reel. Most of the film concerns what happens when the young hero (Anthony Edwards) accidentally intercepts a phone call that announces an impending nuclear holocaust only 70 minutes away, and is desperate to find the woman (Mare Winningham) he has just fallen in love with. The action all unfolds in and around the stretch of Wilshire Boulevard that constitutes LA’s “miracle mile,” nearly all of it in the middle of the night, and the strongest B-film virtues here (apart from a running time of only 87 minutes) mainly have to do with a very nice feel for the particulars of this time, milieu, and place; the biggest drawback is that the film doesn’t wind up going anywhere in particular. Among the many interesting costars (including Lou Hancock, Danny de la Paz, Robert Doqui, Kelly Minter, and Denise Crosby), there’s a particularly nice cameo by John Agar as the heroine’s grandfather. (McClurg Court, Ridge, Oakbrook Center, Bricktown Square, Webster Place, Evanston)… Read more »

Vampire’s Kiss

A Manhattan literary agent (Nicolas Cage) who has problems with women imagines that he’s turning into a vampire. This is the first script by Joseph Minion to be produced since After Hours, and it reflects some of the same obsession with predatory and/or defenseless females and New York perceived as an expressionist landscape; the variable but generally competent direction is by British newcomer Robert Bierman. Practically nothing happens other than the gradual deterioration of any distinction between reality and fantasy, and the theme is closer in some ways to Jekyll and Hyde (with the emphasis almost entirely on Hyde) than to Dracula or Nosferatu. What really makes this worth seeing is Cage’s outrageously unbridled performance, which recalls such extravagant actorly exercises as Jean-Louis Barrault in Jean Renoir’s The Testament of Dr. Cordelier and Jerry Lewis as Buddy Love in The Nutty Professor. Even for viewers like myself who have never been especially impressed with Cage, his over-the-top effusions of rampant, demented asociality are really something to see, and they give this quirky, somewhat out-of-control black comedy whatever form and energy it has. With Maria Conchita Alonso, Jennifer Beals, Elizabeth Ashley, and Kasi Lemmons. (McClurg Court)… Read more »

Pink Cadillac

Clint Eastwood plays a “skip-tracer” cop with a taste for impersonations who is assigned to track down a woman (Bernadette Peters) on the lam with her eight-month-old baby. The wife of an ex-con (Timothy Carhart) who is linked to a group of white supremacists (a band of misfits and speed freaks that the movie has great fun ridiculing), she jumps bail after being arrested for passing counterfeit money; Eastwood follows her to Reno and then finds himself gradually shifting his loyalties. Buddy Van Horn (The Dead Pool) directed from a John Eskow script, but in fact this is very much an Eastwood movie, full of his cranky personality and quirky intelligence, and brimming with ideas. Not all of these ideas are successfully dramatized, and you may have trouble believing in most of the characters, but as a deeply personal work about free-floating existential identities, this has the kind of grit and feeling that few recent action comedies can muster, with Eastwood and Peters interesting and unpredictable throughout. With John Dennis Johnston and Michael Des Barres. (Ford City, Harlem-Cermak, Deerbrook, Biograph, Bolingbrook, Burnham Plaza, Chicago Ridge, Chestnut Station, Woodfield, Orland Square, Plaza. Evanston, Hyde Park, Bricktown Square, Oakbrook Center, Golf Mill)… Read more »

Surname Viet Given Name Nam

The third film of Trinh T. Minh-ha, the American-based Vietnamese experimental filmmaker (Reassemblage, Naked Spaces: Living Is Round), offers a multilayered, complex, and often moving depiction of Vietnamese women and their oppression, both in Vietnam and as refugees in the U.S. Organized musically and utilizing a variety of materials ranging from interviews to newsreel footage to diverse literary and critical commentaries on the sound track, the film is as much about how we as Westerners perceive Vietnamese women as it is about its subject. Trinh’s methods of questioning and dismantling the documentary forms that are generally used to confront such a subject are radically conceived, as well as cunningly and delicately employed. Not an easy film, but an unforgettable one (1989). (JR)… Read more »

Spider Baby, Or The Maddest Story Ever Told

Also known as The Liver Eaters and Cannibal Orgy, this low-budget black-and-white horror comedy from 1964 stars Lon Chaney Jr. (who also sings the title tune) as a member of and chauffeur to the inbred and deranged Merrye family, which includes two bloodthirsty nymphets and a drooling pinheadall of whom like to eat spiders, kill people, and do other nasty things. Jack Hill, the exploitation auteur best known for such works as Blood Bath, Coffy, The Swinging Cheerleaders, and Switchblade Sisters, keeps things moving at a snail’s pace, and the threadbare budget deprives this movie of the grand-scale climax it seems to need. An inept cheapo by any standard, only marginally more sophisticated than an Edward Wood Jr. productionyet it carries a certain demented charm, and there’s reason to suspect that Tobe Hooper checked it out before making The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. With Carol Ohmart, Mantan Moreland, and Sid Haig. 81 min. (JR)… Read more »

Nineteen Eighty-four

A remarkably good translation of George Orwell’s novel, deliberately (rather than coincidentally) made in 1984, and infinitely superior to the 1956 version. Written and directed by Michael Radford, this grim SF depiction of a totalitarian future is made especially vivid and relevant by addressing and bearing witness to three separate periods at once: the time when Orwell wrote the novel, the hypothetical future in which he set the action, and the actual present. Thus the film manages to remain true both to Orwell’s projections and their contemporary meanings; with powerful performances by John Hurt, Richard Burton (in his last significant screen appearance), Suzanna Hamilton, and Cyril Cusack. (JR)… Read more »

A Page Of Madness

Teinosuke Kinugasa’s mind-boggling silent masterpiece of 1926 was thought to have been lost for 40 years until the director discovered a print in his garden shed. A seaman hires on as a janitor at an insane asylum to free his wife, who’s become an inmate after attempting to kill herself and her baby. The film’s expressionist style is all the more surprising because Japan had no such tradition to speak of; Kinugasa hadn’t even seen The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari when he made this. Yet the rhythmic pulsation of graphic, semiabstract depictions of madness makes the film both startling and mesmerizing. I can’t vouch for the live musical accompaniment by Pillow, an unorthodox quartet that’s reportedly quite percussive, but its instrumentationclarinet, dry ice, tubes, electric guitar, accordion, contrabass, cellosounds appropriate. 75 min. (JR)… Read more »

My Hustler

One of Andy Warhol’s earliest features to concentrate on the male body and have a narrative of sortsand, perhaps for the latter reason, his first hit (1965). It’s set on Fire Island and stars Paul America, Ed Hood, and Genevieve Charbon; Warhol regulars Paul Morrissey and Chuck Wein, who is credited with the direction, helped make the film. 70 min. (JR)… Read more »

Miracle Mile

Written and directed by Steve DeJarnatt, this taut, apocalyptic thriller shows some improvement over DeJarnatt’s previous Cherry 2000 (released here only on videotape), apart from some faulty continuity in the final reel. Most of the film concerns what happens when the young hero (Anthony Edwards) accidentally intercepts a phone call that announces an impending nuclear holocaust only 50 minutes away, and is desperate to find the woman (Mare Winningham) he has just fallen in love with. The action all unfolds in and around the stretch of Wilshire Boulevard that constitutes LA’s Miracle Mile, nearly all of it in the middle of the night; the strongest B-film virtues here (apart from a running time of only 87 minutes) involve a very nice feel for the particulars of time, milieu, and place; the biggest drawback is that the film doesn’t wind up going anywhere specific. Among the many interesting stars (including Lou Hancock, Danny de la Paz, Robert Doqui, Kelly Minter, and Denise Crosby) is a particularly nice cameo by John Agar as the heroine’s grandfather. (JR)… Read more »

The Man With Three Coffins

This experimental South Korean narrative feature, directed by Chang-ho Lee in 1987, seems closer in some ways to an Alain Resnais film than to most examples of Eastern cinema that come to mind. Interweaving several narrative strands and oscillating between the past and present, this allegorical parable is not always easy to follow in story terms, but its highly original editing, framing, and uses of color never fail to impress. (JR)… Read more »

Mamma Roma

The least known of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s features in this country also happens to be one of his best. It stars Anna Magnani at her most volcanic, hyperbolic, and magnificent as a Roman prostitute trying to go straight and provide a respectable middle-class existence for her teenage son. Interestingly enough, while the slums of Rome were Pasolini’s essential turf, he dealt with them directly only in his first two films, Accattone (1961) and Mamma Roma (1962), turning mainly to period films and allegories in his subsequent movies. But the ultimate rejection of the bourgeois and petit bourgeois world is as total in the subproletarian milieu of this film as it would be in his later work. Not to be missed; with Ettore Garofolo, Franco Citti, and Silvana Corsini. (JR)… Read more »

Little Vera

Vasily Pichul’s Soviet film Malinkaia Vera, starring newcomer Natalya Negoda, never was quite the soft-core sizzler the publicity seemed to promise, but it’s a good movie about the dreariness of cramped family life in an industrial Ukrainian seaport, its family spats and volatile performances actually evocative of certain Italian pictures. The main characters are Vera, her alcoholic truck-driver father (Yuri Nazarov), her disapproving mother (Ludmila Zaitzeva), her somewhat sympathetic older brother, and a university student named Sergei (Andrei Sokolov), who moves into the family’s flat. (JR)… Read more »

The Life Of Juanita Castro

Made in 1965, this black-and-white Warhol feature was one of the first of his films to use sound, as well as some erratic camera movements. Scripted by Ronald Tavel, one of the stars, the film also features Marie Menken as Juanita Castro and Elektrah as Raoul. On the same program, the earlier half-hour silent and black-and-white short Blow Job (1963), which focuses for all of its running time, and in slow motion, on the face of a young man who is presumably being serviced offscreen. (JR)… Read more »