This appeared in the April 4, 1997 issue of the Chicago Reader. –J.R.
Rating * (Has redeeming facet)
Directed and written by Alexander Payne
With Laura Dern, Swoosie Kurtz, Kurtwood Smith, Mary Kay Place, Kelly Preston, M.C. Gainey, Burt Reynolds, and Tippi Hedren.
Inventing the Abbotts
Rating *** (A must see)
Directed by Pat O’Connor
Written by Ken Hixon
With Joaquin Phoenix, Billy Crudup, Will Patton, Kathy Baker, Jennifer Connelly, Liv Tyler, Joanna Going, Barbara Williams, and Michael Sutton.
By Jonathan Rosenbaum
The best insight into 20th-century repression I’ve encountered recently is contained in Sidney Blumenthal’s piece about Whittaker Chambers in the March 17 issue of the New Yorker. Chambers “lived in a time when it was easier to confess to being a [communist] spy than to confess to being a homosexual,” Blumenthal notes. He also remarks that Chambers’s behavior as a spy — “furtive exchanges, secret signals, false identities” — resembled his behavior as a homosexual, and that he “and a pantheon of anti-Communists for whom conservatism was the ultimate closet — J. Edgar Hoover, Roy Cohn, and Francis Cardinal Spellman — advanced a politics based on the themes of betrayal and exposure, ‘filth’ (as Hoover called it) and purity.… Read more »
That Old Feeling
The underrated Carl Reiner (All of Me) directed this carnivalesque romantic farce, written by Leslie Dixon expressly for Bette Midler. The form and style are traditional Hollywood–closer to Hollywood of the 30s and 40s than to that of today–but the film comes across as positively rebellious in the present conservative climate. The long-divorced and feuding parents (Midler and Dennis Farina) of a straitlaced bride (Paula Marshall) desert their spouses at the wedding party to go off on a fling, and before the picture’s over, bounds of propriety concerning marital fidelity, class, and age have all been joyously crossed. This celebration of middle-age sex and paean to irresponsibility has its share of broad characterizations and predictable plot turns, but Reiner and his actors know what they’re doing every step of the way–and they have a ball with it. With Gail O’Grady, David Rasche, Jamie Denton, and Danny Nucci. Ford City, Gardens, Lake, Lincoln Village, 900 N. Michigan, Norridge, Webster Place. –Jonathan Rosenbaum
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): film still.… Read more »
From the Chicago Reader (April 4, 1997). — J.R.
This is one of the best features (1996) of the prolific and unpredictable Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf, a dozen of whose films are showing at the Film Center this month. It’s also one of his most seminal and accessible — a reconstruction of a pivotal incident during his teens. At the time the shah was in power, and Makhmalbaf was a fundamentalist activist. He stabbed a policeman, was shot and arrested, and spent several years in prison. Two decades later, his politics quite different, Makhmalbaf was auditioning people to appear in his film Salaam Cinema, and among them was the policeman, now unemployed. The two of them wound up collaborating on this film, which tries to reconcile their separate versions of what happened with separate cameras. No doubt it was prompted in part by Abbas Kiarostami’s remarkable Close-up (1990), another eclectic documentary that reconstructs past events — a hoax that involved Makhmalbaf himself — with two cameras (showing at the Film Center on April 24). But this is no mere imitation; it’s a fascinating humanist experiment and investigation in its own right, full of warmth and humor as well as mystery. The original Persian title, incidentally, translates as “Bread and Flower.” Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Sunday, April 6, 4:15 and 6:00, 312-443-3737.… Read more »