Daily Archives: March 3, 1993

A Home At The End Of The World

Michael Cunningham (The Hours) adapts his own novel about boys growing up as intimate friends in a suburb of Cleveland and sharing their lives with a free-spirited woman in New York and elsewhere. The sweetness of these very post-60s characters and their interactions periodically suggests the bohemian euphoria of Jules and Jim, albeit with more pronounced homoeroticism. The cast (Colin Farrell, Robin Wright Penn, Dallas Roberts) is good and the story affecting, though at times Michael Mayer’s direction makes the production seem a little choked up over its own enlightenment. Sissy Spacek is memorable in a secondary role. R, 95 min. (JR)… Read more »

Maria Full Of Grace

This watchable and well-made feature debut by American independent writer-director Joshua Marston is also very much a showcase for Catalina Sadino Moreno, who plays the eponymous lead with grit and energy. Maria is a fearless and attractive 17-year-old Colombian who leaves her job on a rose plantation to work as a drug mule. For $5,000 she swallows more than 60 rubber pellets of heroin, to be reclaimed from her stool after flying to New Jersey; should a pellet break internally, death will quickly ensue. The depiction of her risky voyage and what happens afterward is highly suspenseful and entirely believable. R, 101 min. (JR)… Read more »

Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War On Journalism

Robert Greenwald’s documentary charges the Fox News television network with biased and politicized news coverage, and presents some strong evidence for its position. Unfortunately, it also periodically stoops to the same sort of crass insults used by Fox, and doesn’t spend as much time tweaking its competitors as it might have. Still, its methodical unpacking of routine media abuses is long overdue, and one sign of its effectivenessfollowing a couple of weeks as the best-selling DVD on Amazonwas the sudden politeness of Bill O’Reilly to guests who disagreed with him. 77 min. (JR)… Read more »

A Night Of D.w. Griffith

Film scholar Tom Gunning hosts a program of early shorts by D.W. Griffith, including Rose O’Salem Town (1910) and The Massacre (1912). Gunning knows a great deal about Griffith and always has interesting things to say about him, so this should be a lively program. (JR)… Read more »

The Day After Tomorrow

A whopping case of the greenhouse effect (or what I prefer to call Bush weather) melts the ice cores in Antarctica and floods Manhattan, which then freezes over; before long the disaster has nearly wiped out humanity as we know it (in other words, the U.S. and environs, though Canada is barely mentioned). Schlockmeister Roland Emmerich (Independence Day) has his usual field day with synthetic but enjoyable special effects and crosscutting between subplots (far fewer than usual). There are some fine ironic plot turns (Americans wind up in Mexican refugee camps, and the U.S. president declares, We were wrongI was wrong), but the story mainly hinges on whether ace climatologist Dennis Quaid can make up for his negligence as a father and get from Washington, D.C., to the New York Public Library before his son (Jake Gyllenhaal) and a few others run out of books to burn. All in all, good silly fun. With Ian Holm, Emmy Rossum, and Sela Ward. PG-13, 124 min. (JR)… Read more »

The Cartel

This German TV documentary by Helmut Grosse (2002, in English and subtitled German) offers a concise and lucid account of the multiple ties between the second Bush administration and the oil and energy industries, many of which date back to the president’s membership in the secret Skull and Bones Society at Yale. Some of the material is familiar and obvious, but Grosse makes a strong case for the disproportionate influence of Texas on the national agenda, and he defuses likely charges of Eurocentric bias by limiting his interviews to American experts. (JR)… Read more »

Finally, The Sea

At a time when the new Argentinean cinema seems to be going through an unusually exciting and fertile period, the festival continues to select the most banal and conventional stuff imaginable from that country. This lachrymose and poorly acted Argentinian-Cuban coproduction (2003), about a Wall Street hotshot traveling to Havana to investigate his emigre roots, is distinctive only for its utter lack of distinction. Jorge Dyszel directed. In English and subtitled Spanish. 95 min. (JR)… Read more »

Orwell: Against The Tide

British documentarian Mark Littlewood stages scenes from George Orwell’s life, emphasizing his heroism during the Spanish Civil War, and from his fiction, including the torture of the hero in Nineteen Eighty-Four, with Orwell’s texts as voice-over. I’m sufficiently interested in the left-wing novelist and essayist to find any account of his life absorbing, but this 2003 film is so reductive that even I have to admit the same 54 minutes might be better spent reading or rereading his work. (JR)… Read more »

Dawn Of The Dead

Given the greatness of George Romero’s 1978 independently made classicin which cannibal zombies besiege a shopping mall where a clutch of still-human survivors is making its last standI feared what a studio remake of this apocalyptic thriller would be like. The new version has its share of disturbing moments, but writer James Gunn and director Zack Snyder have stripped away the social satire of the original and put little in its place. Sometimes the film seems a commentary on the ease with which humanity slips into barbarism, at other times a slip into barbarism itself. But if you leave when the end credits begin, you’ll miss further plot developments. With Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, Jake Weber, and Mekhi Phifer. R, 90 min. (JR)… Read more »

Eurotrip

Now I know why more Americans don’t travel to Europe; judging from this dumbed-down teen comedy, directed and written by the people responsible for The Cat in the Hat, it’s sexual panic about all the perverts over there. A high school senior (Scott Mechlowicz) belatedly discovers that his German pen pal (Jessica Boehrs) is female and sexy. Having recently alienated her, he flies to Europe with a buddy (Jacob Pitts) to make amends. Their farcical odyssey through London, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, Rome, and points east seems intentionally slapdash and stupid, but when one of them referred to Europe as a country, I wasn’t sure if it was meant as a joke or not. Even so, I laughed once or twice. R, 90 min. (JR)… Read more »

The Passion Of The Christ

Despite the title, I assumed this drama about the last 12 hours of Jesus’s life would include something about his teachings, at least in flashback. But the Sermon on the Mount is reduced to two sound bites, and miracles and good works barely get a glance; director Mel Gibson stresses only cruelty and suffering, complete with slow motion and masochistic point-of-view shots. The charges of anti-Semitism and homophobia hurled at the movie seem too narrow; its general disgust for humanity is so unrelenting that the military-sounding drums at the end seem to be welcoming the apocalypse (rather like the mass slaughter following the Mexican rebel’s torture in The Wild Bunch). If I were a Christian, I’d be appalled to have this primitive and pornographic bloodbath presume to speak for me. With James Caviezel, Maia Morgenstern, Monica Bellucci, and Hristo Naumov Shopov; Benedict Fitzgerald (Wise Blood) collaborated with Gibson on the script. In Aramaic, Latin, and Hebrew with subtitles. R, 127 min. (JR)… Read more »

Shorts 2: Where You Stand

I’ve seen only one of these eight shorts, but Tsai Ming-liang’s 23-minute The Skywalk Is Gone (2002) is probably better than most full-length features showing at the festival. A minimalist sequel to his 2001 What Time Is It There?, it features the same two characters in approximately the same Taipei setting where they last metonly this time they don’t meet. As usual with Tsai, less is, if not necessarily more, still a great deal. I’d love to see Nanni Moretti’s The Last Customer, with the same running time, about the closing of a family-run pharmacy. Also screening: Gemma Carrington’s Coming Home (UK, 7 min.), Mervi Junkkonen’s Barbeiros (Finland, 12 min.), Julio Robeldo’s The Trumouse Show (Spain, 6 min.), Robias Bechtloff’s To Impress the Girl Next Door (Germany, 7 min.), Ezra Krybus and Matthew Miller’s The School (Canada, 13 min.), and Annemarie Jacir’s Like Twenty Impossibles (U.S./Palestine, 17 min.). (JR)… Read more »

Father And Son

Alexander Sokurov conceived this 2003 drama as a companion piece to his 1997 Mother and Son; it has more plot than that picture but little of its painterly intensity. The story highlights the intimate bonds between a father and his adult son, both military men who share an apartment in an unnamed seaside city. Sokurov disavows any homoerotic intent, but it’s hard to attach any other theme to the lyrical shots of intertwined male bodies at the beginning (accompanied by heavy breathing), or protracted close-ups throughout (conspicuously few of which involve the son’s girlfriend). For mannerist obsessiveness of this kind, I prefer Beau travail. In Russian with subtitles. 84 min. (JR)… Read more »

What Alice Found

An 18-year-old from New Hampshire (Emily Grace), heading south to stay with a friend in Floria, loses her car and money but is rescued by a kindly middle-aged couple (Judith Ivey and Bill Raymond) who offer her a lift in their RV. She gradually discovers that the wife is a hooker and her husband helps to drum up trade, and after a while the teenager decides to turn some tricks herself. This low-budget digital video by writer-director A. Dean Bell looks pretty blotchy, and in terms of exposition and character development it’s hit-or-miss. But it’s worth seeing if only for Ivey, whose wonderful performance single-handedly legitimizes the film’s provocative commentary on prostitution. 96 min. (JR)… Read more »