Daily Archives: July 1, 1994

A Tajik Woman

Chicago-based film and video artist Mehrnaz Saeed-Vafa (Ruins Within) directed this 20-minute video documentary (1994) about Muslim, Farsi-speaking women in the U.S.many of them political exiles from Iran, Tajikistan, or Afghanistanand their problems reconciling their American identity with their religion and culture. A personal and thoughtful work, charged with feeling. (JR)… Read more »

Poor Little Rich Girl

Andy Warhol’s characteristically unscripted 1966 feature with Edie Sedgwick was shot twice: the first time a technical problem with the lens caused both 33-minute reels to be out of focus; the second time everything was fine. But in a classic Warholian gesture, the filmmaker decided the final version should be made of the first reel of the first version and the second reel of the second. Unavailable since it was withdrawn from distribution in 1972, it’s bound to be interesting. (JR)… Read more »

Multiple Maniacs

John Waters’s first sync-sound feature (1970), starring the traveling show Lady Divine’s Cavalcade of Perversions and described by J. Hoberman as the filmmaker’s most overtly Catholic film. Violence was this generation’s sacrilege, Waters once said, so I wanted to make a film that would glorify carnage and mayhem for laughs. Hippies and revolutionaries are ridiculed along with straights, and downtown Baltimore has probably never looked so depraved. With Divine, David Lochary, Mary Vivian Pearce, Edith Massey, Mink Stole, et alWaters’s original Whole Sick Crew. (JR)… Read more »

Mondo Trasho

The late 300-pound transvestite Divine, John Waters’s most enduring muse, makes his/her first star entrance in this 1969 featurethe first Waters movie to play outside Baltimoredriving a 1959 Eldorado to the strains of The Girl Can’t Help It. She inadvertently runs over Mary Vivian Pearce and stuffs the body in the trunk, and they both eventually wind up in a lunatic asylum orgy where Mink Stole tap-dances topless; more adventures and outrages ensue. (JR)… Read more »

Living Proof: Hiv And The Pursuit Of Happiness

Broadly speaking, this cheerful documentary by Kermit Cole does for HIV-positive people what Frank Perry’s On the Bridge did for people with canceri.e., offer a constructive set of strategies for dealing with a difficult and socially unacceptable medical condition. The principal difference in method is that Cole deals with a wide variety of people and Perry dealt mainly with himselfwhich has positive as well as negative consequences. On the plus side we see a broad range of likable individualsmale and female, gay and straight, of diverse ages and from all walks of lifesharing their experiences and exhibiting a great deal of wisdom and resourcefulness. Less helpful is the formulaic editing stylecrosscutting and frequent sound-biteswhich tends to work against the range and variety of the individuals. On the whole, this is well worth seeing. (JR)… Read more »

Grief

This campy, low-budget American independent comedy by Richard Glatzer covers five workdays in a daytime-TV production office where various employees are competing for the same job. It’s neither Soapdish nor Executive Suite, but if you’re looking for some lighthearted sleaze you may have a good time. The gay hero (Craig Chester, who played Nathan Leopold in Swoon) is the story editor of a courtroom soap opera, and most of what keeps the plot going is the bisexual office intrigue. With Jackie Beat, Lucy Guttridge, Illeana Douglas, Alexis Arquette, Carlton Wilborn, and Robin Swid. (JR)… Read more »

Fly High Run Far

From the Chicago Reader (July 1, 1994). — J.R.

A beautiful and powerful spiritual epic from South Korea (1991), directed by Im Kwon-taek — Korea’s most famous and popular film director, whose filmography runs to 80-odd titles — from an ambitious script by Kim Yong-ok. Covering roughly four decades from the 1860s through the 1890s, the film charts the growth and eventual stamping out of Kae Byok (from which comes the film’s original Korean title), a radically humanist and egalitarian religious sect founded on the belief that God is everyone and everything; in particular it focuses on the sect’s charismatic leader, Hae-Wol (very effectively played by Lee Duk-hwa), who was born a poor farmer, and his three wives. Though closer in some ways to a historical pageant than a conventional narrative, with numerous printed titles inserted at the beginning of various episodes to explain their historical contexts, the film is anything but slow or ponderous (unlike Wyatt Earp, for instance). Composed mainly of short, economical scenes, flurries of action against breathtaking landscapes that stunningly reflect the seasons, this may make more intoxicating use of color than any Asian film I’ve seen since Mizoguchi’s New Tales of the Taira Clan, and the story itself has an epic grandeur worthy of Mizoguchi.… Read more »

Drunken Master Ii

A fleet, enjoyable Jackie Chan romp, this belated sequel to the 1979 Drunken Master, which served to launch Chan’s career, brings back his turn-of-the-century folk hero Wong Fei-hong exercising his virtuoso drunken fist sallies against thugs after a long string of provocations. The climactic choreographic rumble is well worth waiting for. The credited director, Lar Kar-leung, who was responsible for the original, was fired by Chan halfway through the shooting, and this appears to be Chan’s show all the way. (JR)… Read more »

Desperate Living

In his first feature without Divine, John Waters finds himself without a moral center. This 1977 prepunk midnight shocker and scabrous fairy tale is full of deviant sexuality, violent excess, and plenty of other Waters regulars, including Liz Renay, Mary Vivian Pearce, Susan Lowe, Mink Stole as a murderous housewife, and Edith Massey as the Queen of the Underworld; there’s also the hefty Jean Hill, who murders one hapless victim by sitting on his face. 91 min. (JR)… Read more »

Alberta Hunter: My Castle’s Rockin’

Stuart Goldman’s 1988 film documents the life of the blues singer (1895-1984) who gave up her musical career for 20 years to work as a nurse before making a triumphant comeback in 1977; a lot of enjoyable concert footage is included. (JR)… Read more »

The Shadow

I only know the 30s radio show by hearsay, so I can’t vouch for the faithfulness of this big-scale movie version, but if I had to choose between a sequel to this and another Batman or Indiana Jones romp, I’d opt for a second Shadow, if only because the visual design of this one–a comic-book fever dream of 30s Manhattan so well imagined and lived-in that one could almost crawl inside it–has more enchantments than the Wagnerian pretensions and Pavlovian cliff-hangers of the other two cycles. Admittedly, this visual design–which recalls more than once some of the classic Universal horror pictures of the 30s–tends to triumph over and thereby diminish everything else in the picture. The characters are fairly dim (Alec Baldwin in the title role, alias Lamont Cranston, is still a bit of a stick, and Penelope Ann Miller is just a slinky icon, though John Lone seems well cast as the occult villain); the plot–largely a matter of telepathy, hypnosis, and mind over matter–while true enough to its origins in Louis Feuillade and Fritz Lang, is not especially memorable; and the action thrills tend to be obligatory rather than inspired. But the look of this movie is such a delight that even passing details–an apple twirled in Miller’s hands, a striped sofa beside which subvillain Tim Curry falls to his death–seem integral parts of the production design; and when an anachronistic, spherical atomic bomb barrels down a hotel hallway, even if it occasions much less suspense than the rolling boulder in Raiders of the Lost Ark, it has all the sleek decorum of a Magritte painting.… Read more »