From the Chicago Reader (May 22, 1992). — J.R.
THE 4TH ANIMATION CELEBRATION: THE MOVIE
*** (A must-see)
Finding out what’s happening in the world these days is no easy matter. Turn to a newspaper and we may learn what American business wants to know — or thinks it wants to know — but not much else; check out what’s on TV and chances are that the state of the world will get less attention than the current Hollywood releases. Even when there is expanded coverage we often can’t be sure that the journalists understand what they’re reporting or that what they’re saying encompasses all that they understand.
I suppose this has always been true to some extent, and maybe it only seems worse nowadays because we no longer have newsreels. Recently some fascinating “March of Time” shorts have come out on video — newsreel “essays” produced by Time-Life and released in movie theaters by Twentieth Century-Fox in the 30s, 40s, and 50s. What seems most quaint and touching about them is how easily people (both famous and ordinary) were induced by the camera to play fictional versions of themselves that they and everyone else were persuaded to think of as real.… Read more »
Jon Jost’s ninth feature focuses rather elliptically on the everyday lives of a group of friends in San Francisco–chiefly Claire (Barbara Hammes), who works in an architect’s office, two of her former lovers (Jon A. English and Nathaniel Dorsky), who are close friends, and a recent boyfriend (Jim Nisbet). Masterfully shot and for the most part very persuasively acted, mainly by nonprofessionals (the film’s use of locals is one reason it captures the San Francisco milieu so perfectly), Rembrandt Laughing is a good deal more ambitious than it might first appear. A sense of the timeless and the cosmic hovers over the seemingly casual scenes, and the uses of a Rembrandt self-portrait and Beethoven’s opus 132 string quartet are integral to the film’s overall project–to discover the universe in a bowl of miso soup. Part of Jost’s method, like Godard’s in A Married Woman, is to convert the dramatic into the graphic, and his various means of carrying that out are unexpected and frequently beautiful (1988). (Chicago Filmmakers, 1229 W. Belmont, Friday, May 22, 8:00, 281-8788)… Read more »
This poetic masterpiece serves as the crowning testament of Joris Ivens, the great Dutch documentarist and leftist who made this film in collaboration with his companion Marceline Loridan shortly before his death at the age of 90. Neither a documentary nor a fantasy but a sublime fusion of the two, the film deals in multiple ways with the wind, with Ivens’s asthma, with China, with the 20th century (and, more implicitly, with the 19th and the 21st), with magic, and with the cinema. Ivens was born only two years after Georges Melies screened his first work, and part of this film’s imaginative, freewheeling, and often comic agenda is to reflect on film history, political history, and personal history that fact, as well as on the near century of intertwining made up Ivens’s life. For all its cosmic dimensions, this work is funny and lighthearted rather than pretentious and ponderous. It may even give you some renewed faith in life on this planet (1988). (Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Thursday, May 28, 6:00, 443-3737)… Read more »