Monthly Archives: August 1993

Manhattan Murder Mystery

Woody Allen’s welcome return (1993) to straight-ahead entertainment, after 15 years of slogging through art-house hand-me-downs, happily coincided with a return to Diane Keaton as his leading lady, and she deftly steals the show. (Cowriter Marshall Brickmanwho hadn’t worked with Allen since Manhattanprobably makes a difference as well.) Allen and Keaton play Allen’s standard bored, upscale Manhattan couple; they get a jolt of adrenaline when they hear that the older woman next door has implausibly died of a coronary. As Keaton begins snooping compulsively around the woman’s husband (Jerry Adler), two friends (Alan Alda and Anjelica Huston) get drawn into the amateur sleuthing, and finally so does Allen. PG, 104 min. (JR)… Read more »

Lyrical Nitrate

A fascinating 50-minute compilation of fragments of fiction and nonfiction films made in various parts of the world between about 1905 and 1915, drawn from the collection of an Amsterdam movie-theater owner by Peter Delpeut. A lot of gorgeous stuff is on view heresome of it black and white, some of it tinted, and a little of it, believe it or not, in full or partial color (1990). (JR)… Read more »

Jacquot

Originally known in French as Jacquot de Nantes, this is a loving and lovely reenactment of the wonderful French New Wave director Jacques Demy’s childhood in Nantes, made by his wife Agnes Varda while Demy was dying of AIDS. Brief glimpses of Demy’s movies and Demy himself are craftily woven in to show us how his mainly happy childhood and early efforts as a filmmaker and animator nourished all his subsequent work. He brought an enchanted fairy-tale sensibility to such features as Lola, Bay of Angels, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, The Young Girls of Rochefort, and Donkey Skin, and Varda does a fine job of showing the roots of this work without succumbing to easy sentimentality. Recommended. (JR)… Read more »

Into The West

Mike Newell (Mona Lisa Smile, Four Weddings and Funeral) directed this 1992 comedy drama about two kids in Dublin (Ruaidhri Conroy and Ciaran Fitzgerald) who steal a white pony and ride through Ireland on it. This tries hardtoo hard, in factto be a lighthearted fantasy, though at least it compensates with some pretty scenery. Gabriel Byrne plays the boys’ father, and Ellen Barkinaccorded second billing, but around for barely more than a cameois a Gypsy he meets on his search for the boys. The script is by Jim Sheridan (In America, My Left Foot); with David Kelly. PG, 97 min. (JR)… Read more »

The Fugitive

Though it’s a good half hour too long, this overblown 1993 spin-off of the 60s TV show otherwise adds up to a pretty good suspense thriller. In flight from the law after being wrongly convicted of murdering his wife, Dr. Richard Kimble (Harrison Ford) is pursued over a good many Chicago and rural locations by U.S. marshal Sam Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones) while trying to clear up the mystery of who actually did the killing. The mystery itself is fairly routine, but Jones’s offbeat and streamlined performance as a proudly diffident investigator helps one overlook the mechanical crosscutting and various implausibilities, and director Andrew Davis does a better-than-average job with the action sequences. Written by Jeb Stuart and David Twohy; with Sela Ward, Joe Pantoliano, Andreas Katsulas, and Jeroen Krabbe. 127 min. (JR)… Read more »

Especially On Sunday

A diverting Italian feature (1992) consisting of three sketches (four before Miramax picked it up for distribution), all written by veteran screenwriter Tonino Guerra (Blowup, Amarcord), all set in the Marecchia Valley, and all having something to do with the quirkiness of human passions. The Blue Dog, directed by Giuseppe Tornatore (Cinema Paradiso), focuses on the love/hatred of a village shoemaker-barber (Philippe Noiret) for a stray dog that follows him around; the title sketch, directed by Giuseppe Bertolucci (Bernardo’s brother), concerns the edgy efforts of a suave middle-aged man (Bruno Ganz) to seduce a younger woman (Ornella Muti) who’s dating a troubled man her own age; and Snow on Fire, directed by Marco Tullio Giordana, is about a lonely widow (Maria Maddalena Fellini, Federico’s sister) who gets into the habit of spying on the lovemaking of her newly wed son and daughter-in-law. Ennio Morricone supplies a characteristically wistful score. (JR)… Read more »

Equinox

As a fan of both writer-director Alan Rudolph (Choose Me) and Matthew Modine (Full Metal Jacket), I should have loved this dreamy metaphysical thriller, which casts Modine as identical twins separated at birth (one a shy car mechanic, the other a brash gangster). It has so many of the usual Rudolph tics that it often comes across as Rudolph squared, but maybe that’s the problem. Despite a likable cast, the movie drowns in its own stylishly self-regarding mannerisms and New Age pretensions. With Lara Flynn Boyle, Tyra Ferrell, Fred Ward, M. Emmet Walsh, Marisa Tomei, and Kevin J. O’Connor (1991). (JR)… Read more »

Dark Passage

An odd, atmospheric 1947 thriller with a San Francisco setting, adapted by writer-director Delmer Daves from a David Goodis novel and starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. We hear but don’t see Bogart for roughly the first third of the movie, which features the subjective camera (a la Lady in the Lake, but handled more successfully) as his character, who’s wrongly accused of murder, escapes from prison and undergoes plastic surgery, only to emerge looking like . . . Humphrey Bogart, before setting out to clear his name. The effective supporting cast includes Agnes Moorehead, Bruce Bennett, Tom D’Andrea, and Clifton Young. 107 min. (JR)… Read more »

The Ballad Of Little Jo

Inspired by a true story, this 1993 feature by Maggie Greenwald is about a woman from the east (Suzy Amis) who’s rejected by her family after giving birth to an illegitimate child and who travels in 1866 to a frontier town disguised as a man to protect herself; she keeps up the impersonation for the remainder of her life, revealing her true sexual identity only to a Chinese servant (David Chung) she takes as a lover. Apart from an impressive performance by Amis and some very capable ones from the secondary cast (which includes Rene Auberjonois, Bo Hopkins, Ian McKellen, Carrie Snodgress, and Heather Graham), this is more skillful than inspired, with an image of the early west that seems largely borrowed from McCabe and Mrs. Miller. (JR)… Read more »

Amongst Friends

An unbelievably tiresome attempt to imitate Scorsese for the umpteenth time. It’s a phony movie about upper-middle-class hoods and show-offy camera movesthe usual Sundance jive, only much more hollow and pointless. Written and directed by Rob Weiss; with Steve Parlavecchio, Patrick McGaw, Joseph Lindsey, and Mira Sorvino. (JR)… Read more »

The Age Of Innocence

Martin Scorsese’s ambitious and sumptuous 1993 film version of Edith Wharton’s 1920 novel about New York society in the 1870s manages to be both personal and true to its source, though it never quite comes together. Incorporating chunks of Wharton’s socially knowing prose in the narration (regally spoken by Joanne Woodward), it tells the story of a young lawyer (Daniel Day-Lewis) who’s engaged to marry a debutante (Winona Ryder) but who falls in love with her married cousin (Michelle Pfeiffer), a somewhat disreputable countess, and never succeeds in doing very much about it. As beautifully mounted as this production is, Scorsese has a way of letting the decor take over, so that Wharton’s tale of societal constraints comes through only in fits and starts. But it’s a noble failure, with plenty of compensations, including a fine secondary cast that includes Geraldine Chaplin, Mary Beth Hurt, Stuart Wilson, Miriam Margolyes, and Norman Lloyd. 133 min. (JR)… Read more »