Daily Archives: January 1, 1997

Mother Of The River

Zeinabu Irene Davis’s provocative 1995 black-and-white short about slavery. On the same program, A Powerful Thang, Davis’s 1991 feature about a young black familya freelance writer, a saxophone player who teaches high school, and a two-year-old childliving in a college town in Ohio. (JR)… Read more »

Hype!

Someday I’d like to see a dissection of the rock-music scene that doesn’t look like a stretch of MTV. In the meantime, Doug Pray’s 1996 documentary about the manufacturing of the Seattle soundless as a kind of music than as a kind of advertisingis an informative and well-made collection of sound bites, music bites, and thought bites put together over several years, with well-aimed jabs at such deserving targets as the New York Times, for its arrogant gullibility in chronicling pop culture, and Rolling Stone, for its designer sleaze. But don’t expect to see, hear, or think about anything for more than a few seconds at a time. 87 min. (JR)… Read more »

Thunder Over Mexico

Due to a falling out with his producer, Upton Sinclair, Sergei Eisenstein never edited any of the footage for Que viva Mexico, one of his most ambitious projects. Montage was central to his art in the 20s and 30s, so this 1933 one-hour assembly by Sol Lesser of the first section of Eisenstein’s epic is only a taste of something that might have beenextraordinary for its graphic compositions if nothing else. (JR)… Read more »

The World’s Best Sellers

Subtitled The Fine Art of Separating People From Their Money, this is a quirky German essay film (1996) by Hermann Vaske about the making of TV commercials, featuring Vaske and Dennis Hopper. Also making appearances are Tony Scott, Wim Wenders, Spike Lee, Alan Parker, Mike Figgis, Joe Pytka, Chicago commercial director Joe Sedelmaier, Harvey Keitel, Dave Stewart, David Bowie, and Julien Schnabel. Vaske will attend the screening. (JR)… Read more »

A Single Girl

Just as she’s about to start a job with room service at a luxury hotel in Paris, a young woman (Virginie Ledoyen) tells her boyfriend that she’s pregnant and wants to keep their child. They quarrel but arrange to meet an hour later; the film then follows her at work for that hour in real time. This segment of Benoit Jacquot’s compelling 1995 feature, written with Jerome Beaujour, is a stunning demonstration of moral and existential suspense in relation to duration, much like Agnes Varda’s 1961 Cleo From 5 to 7. Later the excitement dissipates somewhat, and when the film abandons real time to make room for an epilogue it becomes ordinary. But until then it’s an essential piece of filmmakingnot simply as a stylistic exercise, but as a fascinating look at a hotel in operation. (JR)… Read more »

Freeway

This squalid little noir by writer-director Matthew Bright (who scripted Guncrazy) about an abused teenager on the run (Reese Witherspoon) trips over itself whenever it tries to persuade us it’s retelling the story of Little Red Riding Hoodan effort that begins with cartoons behind the credits. But in spirit, if not in letter, it often resembles a gritty Warners crime movie of the 30s, and it held my interest in spite of its excesses. The secondary cast is reasonably flavorsome: Kiefer Sutherland, Amanda Plummer, Dan Hedaya, Michael Weiss, and Brooke Shields. (JR)… Read more »

Touch

Someone should try to persuade Paul Schrader to stay away from comedy; he has no flair for it whatsoever. Still, this curious piece of satire about a faith healer (Skeet Ulrich), based on an Elmore Leonard novel, isn’t devoid of interest; it’s both sexy and unpredictable, and the eclectic cast aloneBridget Fonda, Lolita Davidovich, Tom Arnold, Paul Mazursky, Christopher Walkenmakes it worth checking out. (JR)… Read more »

Everyone Says I Love You

This creepy Woody Allen musical (1996) has got to be the best argument ever against becoming a millionaire. It unwittingly reveals so many dark facets of the filmmaker’s cloistered mind that one emerges from it as from a crypt, despite the undeniable poignance of some of the musical numbers (the best of which hark back to Love Me Tonight in revealing the vulnerability of the performers). This isn’t only a matter of how Allen regards the poor, nonwhite, sick, elderly, and incarcerated segments of our society, how he feels about the ethics of privacy, or what he imagines his rich upper-east-side neighbors are like. In this characterless world of Manhattan-Venice-Paris, where love consists only of self-validation and political convictions of any kind are attributable to either hypocrisy or a brain condition, the me-first nihilism of Allen’s frightened worldview is finally given full exposure, and it’s a grisly thing to behold. With Goldie Hawn, Alan Alda, Drew Barrymore, Lukas Haas, Julia Roberts, Tim Roth, and Natalie Portman. R, 101 min. (JR)… Read more »

Microcosmos

A technically adroit but aesthetically offensive and philosophically dubious look at the world of insects by French biologists Claude Nuridsany and Marie Perennou, given an intolerable wall-to-wall score by Bruno Coulais and a minimal English voice-over by Kristin Scott Thomas to match the French narration. Making this 1996 film purportedly took 15 years of research, 2 years of designing the camera and lighting equipment, 3 years of shooting, and half a year of editing; how much time the filmmakers spent thinking about what they were doing isn’t noted. The footage is often fascinating, but when it comes to anthropomorphism I prefer the Disney live-action adventures. Made in the 70s and never exported, Michel Fano’s French nature documentary La Territoire des Autreswith its sure sense of soundputs this film to shame. 77 min. (JR)… Read more »

Last Year At Marienbad

This radical experiment in film form by director Alain Resnais and screenwriter Alain Robbe-Grillet was a surprising commercial success in 1961, even in the U.S., and it’s been a rallying point for the possibilities of formal filmmaking ever since. A highly seductive parable about seduction, it’s set in and around a baroque European chateau/hotel, where the nameless hero (Giorgio Albertazzi) tries to persuade the nameless heroine (Delphine Seyrig) that they met the previous year. Shot by Sacha Vierny in otherworldly black-and-white ‘Scope, it oscillates ambiguously between past, present, and various conditional tenses, mixing memory and fantasy, fear and desire. The overall tone is poker-faced parody of lush Hollywood melodrama, yet the film’s dreamlike cadences, frozen tableaux, and distilled surrealist poetry are too eerie, too terrifying even, to be shaken off as camp. For all its notoriety, this masterpiece among masterpieces has never really received its due. In French with subtitles. 93 min. (JR)… Read more »