From Cineaste, Spring 1996. — J.R.
A dozen years ago, when his second feature, Stranger Than Paradise, catapulted him to worldwide fame, Jim Jarmusch seemed at the height of arthouse fashion. Having already known him a little before then, I could tell that the extent to which he suddenly became a figurehead for the American independent cinema bemused him in certain ways. Given the aura of hip, glamorous downtown Manhattan culture that seemed to follow him everywhere, how could it not? I can still recall a New York Times profile a few years back that was so entranced by his image that it suggested that, simply because Jarmusch chose to live in the Bowery, that neighborhood automatically took on magical, transcendent properties.
When Dead Man, his sixth feature, premiered at Cannes last year, it suddenly became apparent that Jarmusch’s honeymoon with the American press was over — although his international reputation to all appearances survives intact. There are multiple reasons for this, including Dead Man itself, and before getting around to this visionary, disturbing black-and-white Western — which I regard as his most impressive achievement to date — it’s worth considering what’s happened to the American independent cinema over the past decade, which has a lot to do with Jarmusch’s changed position in the media.… Read more »
Scandalously neglected and all but forgotten in recent years, Leopoldo Torre-Nilsson (1924-1978), perhaps the first world-class Argentinean director, enjoyed a certain vogue in this country in the early 60s–despite the stiff competition from France, Italy, and Japan in offering personal and stylistically expressive cinema. Among his films distributed in that era, La casa del angel (1957)–also known back then as End of Innocence–is almost certainly the most impressive, a gothic tale of female adolescence with an arresting and original flashback structure and a baroque visual style worthy at times of Orson Welles (especially in his Magnificent Ambersons mode). Written, like many of Torre-Nilsson’s other major features, by his wife, novelist and playwright Beatriz Guido–adapting in this case one of her own novels–this is a haunting and captivating mood piece that almost never turns up, a rare viewing opportunity courtesy of the Chicago Latino Film Festival. (It will screen again at the same time and place next week.) Village, Monday, April 15, 6:15, 642-2403. –Jonathan Rosenbaum
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): film still.… Read more »
From the Chicago Reader (April 12, 1996). — J.R.
A Family Thing
Directed by Richard Pearce
Written by Billy Bob Thornton and Tom Epperson
With Robert Duvall, James Earl Jones, Michael Beach, Irma P. Hall, David Keith, Grace Zabriskie, Regina Taylor, Mary Jackson, Paula Marshall, and James Harrell.
If good quiet movies seem as rare as hen’s teeth nowadays, one reason is that they’re gone before most of us get around to seeing them. As a rule, it’s the loud movies, good and bad (usually bad), that claim our attention first — the ones that yell at us from afar through monster ad campaigns tricked up with socko clips and hyperbolic quotes. Those that speak to us in a normal tone of voice, without flash or filigree, seep into our consciousness more gradually — and gradual discoveries are fast becoming impossible given that the commercial fate of a new feature is often sealed the opening weekend.
The first time I saw A Family Thing — not only the best but pretty nearly the only good quiet Hollywood movie I’ve seen this year — was at a press show in late February, back-to-back with The Birdcage. It took me completely by surprise — unlike The Birdcage, which had been shouting from the rooftops for months — and when I finally got around to seeing it a second time I found it every bit as affecting.… Read more »
Ken Loach, perhaps the most accomplished and intelligent Marxist practitioner of social realism left in England, stretches his impressive talents to depict the Spanish civil war from the point of view of a young unemployed communist from Liverpool (Ian Hart) who joins the republican anti-Franco forces. Scripted by Jim Allen (who also wrote Loach’s Raining Stones) Land and Freedom is historically convincing as well as gripping–Loach near his passionate best. Far from offering a standard defense of the communist position, this 1995 film presents a detailed revisionist critique of the party’s betrayal of other leftist factions in Spain. With Rosana Pastor, Iciar Bollain, Tom Gilroy, and Frederic Pierrot. Music Box, Friday through Thursday, April 12 through 18. –Jonathan Rosenbaum… Read more »