Daily Archives: September 22, 1989

The Second Animation Celebration: The Movie!

It’s one sign of just how good and lively this international assortment is that arguably the weakest item in the bunch, John Lasseter and William Reeves’s Tin Toy, won the last Academy Award for best animation–and that one isn’t too bad either. My own favorites: Tony Collingwood’s metaphysical fantasy from England, Rarg, which plays with conceits worthy of Borges and Calvino; Susan Young and Mike Smith’s tropical extravaganza Umbabarauma, which gives The Three Caballeros a decent run for its money; and a Soviet tribute to the 60th anniversary of Mickey Mouse by Mikhail Tumelya and Alexander Petrov called The Marathon. Other highlights include Gavrilo Gnatovich’s original (if grotesque) Lazar, some weird blackout gags by Cuban animator Juan Padron, a salute to the Olive Jar Animation Studio, and several funny episodes with Matt Groening’s Simpson family, but this list is far from exhaustive, and the overall level of this collection is unusually high. (Fine Arts)… Read more »

Family Viewing

Atom Egoyan’s striking and haunting Canadian feature concerns family ties and video technology, and the strange relationships between them. The plot concerns an alienated young man (Aidan Tierney) who lives with his father (David Hemblin) and his father’s mistress in a fancy high rise full of video equipment. The young man becomes increasingly worried about the fate of his grandmother, whom the father has shunted off to a convalescent home. At the institution he becomes acquainted with an ailing woman and her daughter (Arsinee Khanjian), an equally alienated individual who works as a purveyor of phone sex, which his father uses as a stimulus for his lovemaking. The use of video as a tool of voyeurism and as a means of sustaining distance punctuates the narrative with an eerie persistence; Egoyan’s measured style makes the most of it, while constructing a spellbinding plot that weaves a curious web of complicity and deceit around the major characters. It’s taken a couple of years for this highly accomplished feature to reach Chicago, but it’s still as fresh and as compelling as it was in 1987. (Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Friday, September 22, 7:45, and Sunday, September 24, 6:00, 443-3737)… Read more »

Actor, Auteur [SHIRLEY VALENTINE]

From the Chicago Reader (September 22, 1989). — J.R.

SHIRLEY VALENTINE

** (Worth seeing)

Directed by Lewis Gilbert

Written by Willy Russell

With Pauline Collins, Tom Conti, Julia McKenzie, Alison Steadman, Bernard Hill, Joanna Lumley, and Tracie Bennett.

I had my first experience of English theater in London’s West End around the mid-1960s–a program of three one-act plays written by and starring Noel Coward. (I no longer remember the show’s title, but I believe it was Coward’s last theater piece.) [2011 postscript: this was Suite in Three Keys, in 1966.] The plots of all three plays were fairly slender, and the mise en scene, as I recall, was strictly conventional. What was remarkable about the overall performance, and quite characteristic (as I soon discovered) of the English theater in general, was the extraordinary, almost conspiratorial rapport between Coward the actor and his audience — a very cozy kind of intimacy that reflected the appeal of the three characters Coward was playing and very little else. The stories and direction were nothing more than the recipes and the cooking necessary to serve these characters up to the public for its delectation, and once combined the ingredients retained no attributes of their own; all that remained was Coward’s plump, juicy, quirky personality.… Read more »

A Dry White Season

First-rate agitprop about the ruthlessness with which South African apartheid is maintained, directed by Euzhan Palcy (Sugar Cane Alley), and adapted from Andre Brink’s novel by Palcy and Colin Welland. More powerful than either Cry Freedom or A World Apart, particularly in its depiction of violence, this film is like those predecessors in concentrating on the situation of white rebels in South Africa, but its depiction of black oppression goes substantially further. Donald Sutherland stars as a liberal but blinkered schoolteacher who gradually becomes radicalized after a series of brutal events affecting his gardener that eventually split his family apart. Susan Sarandon plays a sympathetic journalist, and Marlon Brando, in a juicy comeback cameo that evokes Orson Welles’s Clarence Darrow impersonation in Compulsion, plays an antiapartheid lawyer. The relentless plot is effectively set up and expertly pursued, and Hugh Masekela makes some striking contributions to Dave Grusin’s musical score. With Janet Suzman, Jurgen Prochnow, and Zakes Mokae. (Oakbrook, 900 N. Michigan, Old Orchard)… Read more »