As the Chicago International Film Festival moves into its second week, two more films with distributors have been added to the list. Persuasion–a thoughtful, intelligent adaptation of the Jane Austen novel that provides a welcome alternative to Merchant-Ivory–is replacing Deathmaker and is being handled by Sony Pictures Classics. Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead, filling the “surprise” film slot, is on all counts the dumbest Hollywood movie I saw in Cannes last May–an egregious Tarantino spin-off with everything the mainstream press is screaming for: a simple (even stupid) contrived plot, intimations of deranged and nonsensical violence, macho stances, movie stars, a fancy title, and the Miramax logo. It has nothing to do with reality and everything to do with someone pointing at Reservoir Dogs and saying, “Let’s have another one of those.” Under the circumstances, I guess the performances are OK.
Last week I suggested that the focus of this year’s retrospective, Lina Wertmuller–the recent recipient of the festival’s Golden Hugo for lifetime achievement–was a bizarre choice that might have been made interesting if the festival had issued a monograph explaining why her work was still worth defending or had some special relevance to the 90s. As a sort of substitute gesture the festival flew in John Simon, Wertmuller’s biggest defender, who solemnly informed at least one gathering that she had produced four masterpieces, more than any other artist in the history of Italian cinema–unlike Antonioni, responsible for only three, De Sica (only two), de Seta (one), Fellini (two or three–I forget which), and Visconti (one or two, ditto).… Read more »