Monthly Archives: February 1993

Intolerance

D.W. Griffith’s 1916 masterpiece, described by Pauline Kael as perhaps the greatest movie ever made and the greatest folly in movie history, cuts among four stories linked by images of Lillian Gish and a quote from Whitman (Out of the cradle, endlessly rocking… ). The Nazarene stars Bessie Love, The Medieval Story involves the 1572 Saint Bartholomew’s Day massacre of the Huguenots, The Fall of Babylon features Constance Talmadge, Elmo Lincoln, Seena Owen, Tully Marshall, and eye-popping sets, and The Mother and the Law is an exciting contemporary story starring Mae Marsh and Robert Harron. Probably the most influential of all silent films after The Birth of a Nation, Intolerance launched ideas about associative editing that have been essential to the cinema ever since, from Soviet montage classics to recent American experimental films. And in the use of crosscutting and action to generate suspense, the film’s climax hasn’t been surpassed. 178 min. (JR)… Read more »

Indochine

Some people have called this 155-minute piece of French colonialist nostalgia by Regis Wargnier (1991) the French Gone With the Wind, which seems grossly unfair to both Victor Fleming and David O. Selznick. More accurately, this overripe epic about a Frenchwoman (Catherine Deneuve at her most flamboyant) lording it over a rubber plantation and worrying about her adopted Indo-Chinese daughter (Linh Dan Pham) between 1930 and 1954 is a fairly enjoyable camp melodrama with overblown acting, great scenery, and characters who all seem to have stepped out of daytime soaps. With Jean Yanne (a long, long way from his starring part in Godard’s Weekend), Henri Marteau, and Vincent Perez. (JR)… Read more »

Falling Down

On the verge of retirement, a Los Angeles police officer (Robert Duvall) sets out to solve an escalating series of vigilante crimes committed by a former defense worker (Michael Douglas) estranged from his middle-class family. Written by Ebbe Roe Smith and directed by Joel Schumacher, this string of violent though petty wish fulfillments (1993) is cynically contrived to exploit male middle-class dissatisfactions without exploring the basis for any of them. On a surface level, it’s fairly well realized as storytelling, cutting back and forth between the separate trajectories of Douglas and Duvall until they finally meet. But none of the characters ever rises beyond the level of his or her generic functions, and by the end the overall emptiness of the conception becomes fully apparent. With Barbara Hershey, Rachel Ticotin, Frederic Forrest, and Tuesday Weld. R, 115 min. (JR)… Read more »

Danzon

A single mother (Maria Rojo) who’s pushing 40 spends every Wednesday night dancing in a Mexico City ballroom with a 50ish partner (Daniel Rergis); when he mysteriously runs away to Veracruz, she goes looking for him. In the course of her search she redefines herself through her friendship with a drag queen and her affair with a younger man. This 1991 feature, the second by Mexican filmmaker Maria Novaro, is leisurely paced and unemphatic but firmly conceived and executed, with a lot of feeling for female solidarity. It deliberately wanders, getting your mind to wander as well before finally taking you somewherean agreeable if far from earthshaking experience. It may also serve as an antidote to Strictly Ballroom, another picture about ballroom dancing that puts me in mind of chalk scraping across a blackboard. With Carmen Salinas, especially good as a world-weary landlady. In Spanish with subtitles. PG-13, 96 min. (JR)… Read more »

Films By Craig Baldwin

If you find filmic depictions of history alienating, these highly accomplished, bitterly and parodically funny, and justly praised experimental films may be something of a revelation. Tribulation 99: Alien Anomalies Under America (1991) and O No Coronado! (1992) both make extensive use of campy found footage from a variety of sources to illustrate a kind of all-American delirium that is heard on the sound track: in Tribulation 99 this delirium relates to paranoid fantasies of the fundamentalist right, while in O No Coronado! (which, along with the decomposing archival selections, includes some newly shot documentary and fiction footage with performers Nao Bustamante, Matthew Day, and Gina Pacaldo) it relates to the 16th-century conquistador Coronado’s fruitless search for the seven cities of gold in what is today Arizona and New Mexico. I find these ingenious postmodernist, antiimperialist rants alienating in an unhelpful way, but my position is a minority one. (JR)… Read more »

Army Of Darkness

Sam Raimi’s lively third installment (1993) in his Evil Dead series begins with the hero, Ash (Bruce Campbell), crash-landing in the year 1300 along with his car, his chain saw, and his 12-gauge shotgun, then battling skeletons and engaging in other forms of sword and sorcery to get back to the present. Mercifully clocking in at 81 minutes, this enjoyably campy hokum combines A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, Three Stooges slapstick, and frenetic comic-book pacing with special effects that seem like hand-me-downs from Ray Harryhausen’s Jason and the Argonauts; it’s calculated for ten-year-old boys of all ages and persuasions, whose howls of glee are programmed into the mock-macho material at regular intervals. This is old-fashioned fun until the climactic battle, which almost comes across like routine bone piling after all the flights of fancy. Written by the director and Ivan Raimi, and costarring Embeth Davidtz, Marcus Gilbert, Ian Abercrombie, and Richard Grove. 81 min. (JR)… Read more »

Groundhog Day

From the Chicago Reader (February 1, 1993). — J.R.

GroundhogDay

Groundhog Day movie image Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell

Bill Murray plays an obnoxious TV weatherman from Pittsburgh forced to relive the same wintry day in a small Pennsylvania town over and over again until he gets it right, in an unexpectedly graceful and well-organized comedy (1993) directed and cowritten by Harold Ramis. While the movie’s underlying message is basically A Christmas Carol strained through It’s a Wonderful Life – hardly a recommendation in my book — the filmmakers mercifully spare us the speeches and simply demonstrate their thesis; as they do they reveal their true virtue: a fluid sense of narrative that works the story’s theme-and-variations idea with a glancing and gliding touch. Considering that none of the characters is fresh or interesting, it’s a commendable achievement that the quality of the storytelling alone keeps the movie watchable and likable. With Andie MacDowell and Chris Elliott. PG, 103 min. (JR)

groundhogday2

Groundhog-DayRead more »