Daily Archives: November 1, 1992

Hard-boiled

John Woo’s violent crime thriller and last Hong Kong production to date (1992) stars Chow Yun-fat as a tough Hong Kong cop who loses his best friend and partner in a teahouse shoot-out and joins forces with a hired killer (Tony Leung) who appears to operate on both sides of the law. Choreographically stunning like most of Woo’s work, especially before he headed West. 132 min. (JR)… Read more »

Simple Men

The third feature by Hal Hartley (The Unbelievable Truth, Trust) stars Robert Burke as a small-time computer criminal who’s just been betrayed by his girlfriend. He teams up with his younger brother (William Sage) to look for their runaway father, a radical activist, and in the course of their search they meet a couple of unusual women, the proprietress of an oyster bar (Karen Sillas) and an epileptic Romanian (Elina Lowensohn). Closer in spirit to the Godardian mannerism of Hartley’s shorts than to his more naturalistic previous featuresthough with the same impulse toward manic (and mantric) repetitionsthis has the best and funniest dialogue of any of his films. It’s not entirely clear where this 1992 movie winds up, but the journey is provocative. With Martin Donovan and Mark Chandler Bailey. R, 105 min. (JR)… Read more »

Samantha

Martha Plimpton stars as the title heroinea classical musician who discovers on her 21st birthday that she’s adopted and undergoes an extreme identity crisis. It’s a quirky enough premise to build a whimsical comedy on, and first-time director Stephen La Rocque, who wrote this with John Golden, sees the situation and the unstereotypical characters with such freshness that he keeps one interested and amused. The other cast members certainly helpHector Elizondo and Mary Kay Place as the adoptive parents, Dermot Mulroney as a childhood friend and fellow musician, Ione Skye as his huffy girlfriendand the integral use of chamber music, with Mulroney actually playing his own cello parts, is often delightful. (JR)… Read more »

Salo, Or The 120 Days Of Sodom

Pier Paolo Pasolini’s last feature (1975) is a shockingly literal and historically questionable transposition of the Marquis de Sade’s 120 Days of Sodom to the last days of Italian fascism. Most of the film consists of long shots of torture, though some viewers have been more upset by the bibliography that appears in the credits. Roland Barthes noted that in spite of all its objectionable elements (he pointed out that any film that renders Sade real and fascism unreal is doubly wrong), this film should be defended because it refuses to allow us to redeem ourselves. It’s certainly the film in which Pasolini’s protest against the modern world finds its most extreme and anguished expression. Very hard to take, but in its own way an essential work. In Italian with subtitles. 117 min. (JR)… Read more »

Nitrate Kisses

A strikingly shot and edited 1992 black-and-white documentary feature by experimental filmmaker Barbara Hammer, about the effacing of gay experience from official histories, beginning with the life of novelist Willa Cather. Setting offscreen commentaries and conversations against various kinds of archival and new footage (including bold images of lovemaking between women in the 70s), this far-ranging and compelling essay seems limited only by the sound-bite and image-bite format, which gives it a slightly rushed feeling. 67 min. (JR)… Read more »

The Hours And Times

Christopher Munch’s brilliant and concise account of what might have happened during John Lennon and Brian Epstein’s four days of vacation in Barcelona in 1963written, directed, produced, and shot by Munch (who also photographed The Living End) on location in black-and-white 35-millimeter. Visually spare and running for only an hour, this benefits not only from one terrific performance (David Angus as Epstein) and a pretty good one (Ian Hart as Lennon), but also from a filmmaking confidence and lack of pretension that makes every passing nuance register keenly (1991). (JR)… Read more »

Home Alone 2: Lost In New York

The inevitable sequel (1992) to what the PR flacks described as the most successful comedy and the third-highest-grossing film in motion picture history brings back actors Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, John Heard, and Catherine O’Hara, producer-writer John Hughes, and director Chris Columbus. The action is transferred from suburbia to New York City, but otherwise the filmmakers stick like glue to the formula of the original: a little boy from a well-to-do family left on his own (last time at home, this time in New York City) is threatened by low-life working-class crooks whom he repeatedly foils and tortures, and upscale property values prevail. The new cast members include Brenda Fricker, Tim Curry, Rob Schneider, Dana Ivey, and Eddie Bracken. PG, 120 min. (JR)… Read more »

Waterland

A curious Faulknerian tragedy involving a high school history teacher (Jeremy Irons) in Pittsburgh and the stories he tells his class about his family’s threadbare past in the English fens. At the center of his recollections are his feebleminded brother and the sweetheart (Sinead Cusack) the teacher wound up marrying. Not all of it works, but the handling of time is often bold and original, and the performances are quite affecting. Irons, who characteristically dominates, reveals here, as in Dead Ringers and Reversal of Fortune, that he’s more of an auteur than either his writer or director. Directed by Stephen Gyllenhaal from a script by Peter Prince based on a novel by Graham Swift; with Grant Warnock, Lena Headey, Callum Dixon, Ethan Hawke, and Sean McGuire (1992). (JR)… Read more »

Traces Of Red

A better-than-average murder mystery, though as with many of its print equivalents, the surprises make a sizable dent in one’s ability to suspend disbelief. James Belushi stars as a homicide detective around Palm Beach who finds himselfalong with several womenin serious trouble after he testifies against a gangster in court; Tony Goldwyn plays his partner, William Russ his brother (a senatorial candidate), and Lorraine Bracco his girlfriend, a recent widow. Andy Wolk directed, tolerably well, from a script by Jim Piddock. (JR)… Read more »

A Tale Of Springtime

After his Six Moral Tales and Comedies and Proverbs, Eric Rohmer launched a new cycle of films, Tales of the Four Seasons, with this characteristically masterful and low-key talkfest (1989). A young doctor of philosophy (Anne Teyssedre) spends a few days with a new friend (Florence Darel), a musician whose father (Hugues Quester) is living with a student she detests (Eloise Bennett). What seems to be slowly building toward a seduction of the philosophy teacher by the musician’s father actually has more to do with the development of the friendship between the teacher and the musician, and Rohmer unravels the plot coolly and authoritativelyas usual, like the warp and woof of an 18th-century novella. This takes some time to get going, but steadily picks up interest and momentum. In French with subtitles. 112 min. (JR)… Read more »

Fellini’s Roma

An imaginative, highly personal travelogue and essay film by Federico Fellini (1972), one of his best works of this period. It features the filmmaker roaming around the Eternal City with his crew, musing about the recent and distant historical past, running into old chums and acquaintances (such as Anna Magnani and Gore Vidal), and occasionally indulging some flamboyant conceits for their own sake (e.g., the memorable ecclesiastical fashion show). As usual with Fellini, especially from the 70s on, spectacle tends to be everything. In Italian with subtitles. 128 min. (JR)… Read more »

Rock Hudson’s Home Movies

This brilliant hour-long video transferred to film (1992) by independent filmmaker Mark Rappaport (The Scenic Route) is in effect a subversive piece of film criticism that departs from the fictional conceit of Hudson himself (represented through clips from his films and by actor Eric Farr) speaking from beyond the grave about his homosexuality and what this did or didn’t have to do with his countless heterosexual screen roles. Part of what emerges, to hilarious effect, is the extraordinary amount of male cruising and number of barbed allusions to Hudson’s gayness that his movies of the 50s and 60s contain; what also emerges is the sexual ideology of the period. Though much of this essential work is extremely funny, it is also very much about death in relation to movies. 63 min. (JR)… Read more »

Reflections In A Golden Eye

John Huston directed this 1967 adaptation (by Chapman Mortimer and Gladys Hill) of Carson McCullers’s tortured novel about an army major at a peacetime camp in Georgia who’s a repressed homosexual (Marlon Brando), his adulterous wife (Elizabeth Taylor), and various other unhappy characters and gothic traumas. Originally shot (by Aldo Tonti) in gold-tinted hues that suggested caterpillar gutsa gimmicky effect that was widely applauded at the time for artistic originality, though its aesthetic function was dubiousthe film now circulates in more conventional color. Either you like this movie a lot or you run screaming for the exit; I find it rough going. With Julie Harris and Brian Keith. (JR)… Read more »

The Proud Ones

Yves Allegret’s French melodrama Les orgueilleux, shot on location in Mexico, was made in 1953, the year after The Wages of Fear, and the existential roots of the plot and the use of Latin American squalor as a French view of hell recall some of the earlier film’s pessimistic atmosphere. The storyadapted by Jean Aurenche and Pierre Bost from Jean-Paul Sartre’s L’amour redempteur, which was set in Chinainvolves the redemptive love that gradually develops between a stranded recent widow (Michele Morgan) and a drunken derelict and former doctor (Gerard Philipe) during a meningitis epidemic in a hot and sleazy coastal town. Alas, director Allegret is no Clouzot: the pace of this picture limps, and the ending is far from persuasive. Obviously it means something more to Martin Scorsese, who, impressed by its drenched eroticism, its symbolism (e.g., a contaminated crucifix boiled in water), and its hothouse performances, brought it back into circulation in the early 90s (it originally went under the title of The Proud and the Beautiful). Certainly not devoid of interest, but no masterpiece. (JR)… Read more »