Daily Archives: May 1, 1994

Dialogues With Madwomen

A quirky but surprisingly watchable 1993 documentary by Allie Light in which seven women, including Light, speak to the camera at length about their former madness and incarceration. The forms of insanity range from multiple personality disorder to manic depression to schizophrenia, and Light adds fictional and semifictional illustrations of the women’s visions and experiences. Much of what keeps it interesting is the overall lucidity of these women about their earlier states and about the abusive and insensitive treatment many of them received from institutions. (JR)… Read more »

The Days

Perhaps the most surprising thing about this depressing black-and-white underground feature by Wang Xiaoshuai (1993) about two alienated young Beijing artists is how Western most of its reference points seem to benot only Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis playing in their apartment, but an overall arty style of filmmaking that resembles American independent work of the 60s. These marginal characters, whose minimal story is narrated in third person offscreen, often seem as tired of their own lives as they are of each other, and after a while the viewer is likely to feel they should be (one may be reminded of Jarmusch without the wit). Yet as a glimpse of contemporary Chinese life, this feature is undeniably fascinating. With Yu Hong and Liu Xiaodong. (JR)… Read more »

The Crow

A guitar player, guided by the title bird, comes back to life as a superhero in this 1994 action picture based on James O’Barr’s comic book of the same name. Brandon Lee, the lead, died while performing a stunt for the film, and many doubles were used in the remaining footage. Directed by Alex Proyas from a script by David J. Schow and John Shirley; with Ernie Hudson and Michael Wincott.… Read more »

Blue

Derek Jarman’s last feature (1993, 79 min.), made when he was dying of AIDS and losing his eyesight, has only a single, continuous image consisting of the color blue, but the sound track is unusually dense, making use of four separate speaking voices (including those of Jarman and Orlando’s Tilda Swinton), a multifaceted score by Simon Fisher Turner, other pieces of music, and numerous sound effects. (The sound track came out on CD, and the text has been published as a book.) Given Jarman’s previous work, it isn’t surprising that he didn’t go gently into that good night; much of the narration consists of him raging (or simply complaining), poetically and prosaically, about his worsening physical condition and other facets of his daily life. In effect the film becomes his own epitaph and tombstone. (JR)… Read more »

Being Human

Some of the precise meanings of this Bill Forsyth comedy eluded me, but the vibes couldn’t have been nicer. What’s off-putting at first is that both the title and the man-through-the-ages formatRobin Williams playing no fewer than five fellows named Hector: a caveman, a Roman Empire slave, a medieval traveler, a Portuguese shipwreck survivor, and a divorced landlord in contemporary Manhattanpromise the worst kind of universalist banality; fortunately, it never materializes. The overall conceit may be arch, but as narrator Theresa Russell periodically points out, this is a story about stories; and this being a Forsyth movie, everythingeven customary overactors like Williams, John Turturro, and Lorraine Braccois scaled down to human proportions. The movie leaves you feeling there’s more to it than meets the eye. With Anna Galiena, Vincent D’Onofrio, Hector Elizondo, and Lindsay Crouse. (JR)… Read more »

Beijing Bastards

Comparing Zhang Yuan’s relatively big-budget independent mainland Chinese feature (1993) about disaffected youth with his previous effortthe more experimental, low-budget Mama, shot on videois almost like comparing Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused with his earlier Slacker. Here you might have more trouble getting into the rock music, but the same sort of seminarrative drift develops between various miniplots. What this film has to say about contemporary Chinese youth certainly has documentary interest, but the originality and power of Mama are not much in evidence. With Cui Jian, Li Wei, and Wu Lala. (JR)… Read more »

Babyfever

Henry Jaglom, the let-it-all-hang-out New Age independent who made a movie about women and food (Eating, 1991), now turns his attention to women and having babies. This follows the by-now-standard Jaglom formula of encounter sessions: mechanical crosscutting between improvised declarations and conversations that monotonously adhere to a TV sound-bite format, nostalgic recordings of standards sung by well-known crooners, lots of whiny self-examination. There’s also the usual simple story line designed to frame the open-ended rap sessionsin this case the heroine (cowriter Victoria Foyt, Jaglom’s wife) waiting to find out whether she’s pregnant by a man she may or may not be in love with (Matt Salinger). The southern California ambience is, shall we say, unrelenting. Eric Roberts puts in a cameo, and Zack Norman is around for one of his familiar arias of manic desperation. (JR)… Read more »

Assassins And Thieves

Sacha Guitry’s last solo directing job (1957), the story of one man’s life of crime, told in Guitry’s favored and invariably witty flashback mode; with Michel Serrault and Jean Poiret. (JR)… Read more »