Daily Archives: December 10, 1993

Sexual Discourse [THE PIANO]

From the Chicago Reader (December 10, 1993). — J.R.

Holly-Hunter-dans-La-Lecon-de-Piano-en-1993_portrait_w858

THE PIANO

*** (A must-see)

Directed and written by Jane Campion

With Holly Hunter, Harvey Keitel, Sam Neill, Anna Paquin, Kerry Walker, Genevieve Lemon, Tungia Baker, and Ian Mune.

The Piano-HH

Given how sexy and volatile it is, it’s no surprise that The Piano is a hit. It’s also no surprise, given the strong-arm tactics of the distributor and the hype of some reviewers, that a certain critical backlash is already setting in, as evidenced by a lucid and considered dissent by Stuart Klawans in the Nation and a rather lazy dismissal by Stanley Kauffmann in the New Republic. People like myself who are passionate fans of Jane Campion’s previous work may be somewhat churlish that many other people are finding their way to her work only after it has become juiced up, simplified, and mainstreamed — like the people who bypassed the dreamy finesse of Eraserhead on their way to the relative crudeness of Blue Velvet. It’s certainly regrettable that viewers who weren’t interested in seeing Campion’s 1989 film Sweetie until after they saw The Piano now have to contend with a lousy video transfer that doesn’t begin to do justice to Campion’s colors and compositions.… Read more »

How Are the Kids?

A 1990 collection of six fictional shorts, made in diverse corners of the globe and addressing the international rights of children, here having its U.S. premiere. It’s an uneven package, but the filmmakers include the team of Jean-Luc Godard and Anne-Marie Mieville, the late Lino Brocka, and Euzhan Palcy (A Dry White Season). The jewel of the bunch is Boy, an odd, moving fable about racism, without dialogue, written and directed by Jerry Lewis and scored by Georges Delerue. Lewis’s filmmaking gifts — he initially patterned his work after that of his mentor Frank Tashlin, but substituted an invented, free-form universe for a social and satirical one — have been almost totally obscured in this country by debates about his qualities as a comic performer, but here they can be seen in almost pristine form (albeit with an unmistakable social dimension). The other shorts are by Rolan Bykov (from the former USSR) and Ciro Duran (from Colombia). Also showing are four award-winning French Canadian animated shorts from the collection Rights From the Heart (1992). Facets Multimedia Center, 1517 W. Fullerton, Friday and Saturday, December 10 and 11, 7:00 and 9:00; Sunday, December 12, 5:30 and 7:30; and Monday through Thursday, December 13 through 16, 7:00 and 9:00; 281-4114.… Read more »

A Perfect World

On the run from the Texas Rangers in 1963, an escaped convict (Kevin Costner) develops a close friendship with the seven-year-old boy (T.J. Lowther) he takes hostage. A good two-part character study with a terrific performance by Lowther and fine work by Costner, which should help resuscitate his image after too many Boy Scout projects, this film bogs down when it aims for too much psychology and pathos, and it arrives at a few false moments and more than a few overextended ones; John Lee Hancock’s script has too many good guy/bad guy setups, and the suave period handling doesn’t always extend to the characters’ behavior. But director Clint Eastwood (who also plays the leader of the Rangers) is generally so good at handling narrative, savoring Texas panhandle settings, and molding performances that you aren’t likely to mind much. The critique of macho and flawed father figures that he’s been preoccupied with at least since White Hunter, Black Heart continues to be pungent and thoughtful. With Laura Dern. Ford City, Biograph, Burnham Plaza, Golf Glen, Lincoln Village, Esquire, Evanston, Norridge.… Read more »