Daily Archives: August 1, 1998

Frozen

A rare example of independent cinema from mainland Chinaprivately financed, shot without authorization in Beijing, credited pseudonymously to Wu Ming (which means nobody in Chinese), and smuggled out of the countrythis odd and disturbing 1997 feature follows the morose tale of a performance artist who stages his own suicide. On the longest day of the year he plans to kill himself by melting a large block of ice with his own body warmth, a performance he calls Funeral in Ice. Given the importance of this film as a provocation and an act of courage, I wish I liked it more, but I can’t deny that there’s nothing else like it. (JR)… Read more »

Flashframes

A program of jazz-related films, showing in conjunction with the Chicago Jazz Festival. John Coney directed the 1974 film Space Is the Place, starring and cowritten by avant-garde composer, musician, and bandleader Sun Ra. In The Spitball Story, Jean Bach, director of the remarkable A Great Day in Harlem, uses the same techniques of oral history and thumbnail jazz portraiture to tell the story of why Dizzy Gillespie was fired from the Cab Calloway band and how this transformed his career; the film isn… Read more »

Junk Food

This 1997 piece of Japanese exploitation by writer-director Masashi Yamamoto shuttles between a devout blind woman, a crazed drug addict, a gang war, a Pakistani thief who hopes to marry a Japanese woman, and a Japanese-American who works temporarily as a prostitute and hooks up with a guy from the provinces, all within the same 24-hour period in Tokyo. The strength of the pictureapart from its gritty stylistic eclecticism, which incorporates video and unorthodox editing that suggests various drug experiencesrests mainly in its uncharacteristic and unofficial glimpses of Japanese society, especially of people living on the fringes of that society. A somewhat noirish project occasionally confused by the filmmaker’s desire to hoke things up with as much sex, violence, and gore as possible. (JR)… Read more »

Dr. Faustus

Richard Burton himself directed (with Nevill Coghill) this film version of the Christopher Marlowe play during the middle of what might be termed his Elizabeth Taylor period (1967), and the critics were not kind. Starring Burton himself, along with Andreas Teuber, Ian Marter, and Taylor, in a silent part, as Helen of Troy. Apparently Oxford University had a hand in the proceedings as well.… Read more »