From the Chicago Reader (November 14, 1997). –J.R.
Fast, Cheap & Out of Control
Rating **** Masterpiece
Directed by Errol Morris
With Dave Hoover, George Mendonca, Ray Mendez, and Rodney Brooks.
To name an object is to suppress three-fourths of the enjoyment of the poem, which is composed of the pleasure of guessing little by little: to suggest…that is the dream. –Stéphane Mallarmé
If narratives are arrangements of incidents with precise beginnings, middles, and ends, then Errol Morris’s exciting and singular Fast, Cheap & Out of Control doesn’t really qualify. You can’t even call it a documentary in any ordinary sense, because you often can’t say exactly what’s being documented. I suspect that poetry offers a better model for what Morris is up to, particularly Mallarmé’s idea of what poetry should be: an obscure object shaped and defined in successive increments by the reader’s perception and imagination.
Four men are interviewed separately in Morris’s film — a lion tamer (Dave Hoover), a topiary gardener (George Mendonca), a mole-rat specialist (Ray Mendez), and a robot scientist (Rodney Brooks) — and they recount the origins as well as some of the development of their passion for their work. Who they are apart from their work almost never comes up.… Read more »
Hide and Seek
Su Friedrich’s 64-minute, black-and-white 1996 narrative about lesbian adolescence in the 60s makes impressive use of found footage from that period; the match between this material and the film’s fiction is often uncanny, assisted by wonderful performances from Chels Holland, Ariel Mara, and Alicia Manta, among others. Friedrich scripted with Cathy Nan Quinlan. On the same program, Friedrich’s Damned If You Don’t (1987), which deconstructs Black Narcissus and delves into history while presenting a portrait of a young nun who fights a losing battle against her sexual desires. Chestnut Station, Saturday, November 15, 5:00.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): film still.… Read more »
A Brighter Summer Day
I’ve never read Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy, but Edward Yang’s astonishing 230-minute epic (1991), set over one Taipei school year in the early 60s, would fully warrant the subtitle “A Taiwanese Tragedy.” A powerful statement from Yang’s generation about what it means to be Taiwanese, it has a novelistic richness of character, setting, and milieu unmatched by any other 90s film (a richness only partially apparent in its three-hour version). What Yang does with objects — a flashlight, a radio, a tape recorder, a Japanese sword — resonates more deeply than what most directors do with characters, because along with an uncommon understanding and sympathy for teenagers Yang has an exquisite eye for the troubled universe they inhabit. This is a film about alienated identities in a country undergoing a profound existential crisis — a Rebel Without a Cause with much of the same nocturnal lyricism and cosmic despair. Notwithstanding the masterpieces of Hou Hsiao-hsien, the Taiwanese new wave starts here. Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Saturday, November 15, 2:30, and Thursday, November 20, 6:00, 312-443-3737. –Jonathan Rosenbaum
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): film still.
… Read more »