From the February 18, 2000 Chicago Reader. This piece is reprinted in my forthcoming Goodbye Cinema, Hello Cinephilia (University of Chicago Press), appearing this fall. — J.R.
Alone. Life Wastes Andy Hardy
Rating *** A must see
Directed by Martin Arnold
With Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland, and Fay Holden.
Wearing suspenders, Mickey Rooney as Andy Hardy steps behind his mother (Fay Holden), clutching her left shoulder and right forearm with his two hands, and firmly kisses the back of her neck while she slowly nods her head with a stoic, worldly-wise expression. In a series of stuttering, staccato jerks, he does the same thing again, to the throbbing strains of eerie, ghostly music. Then he does it a third time, pausing first to rock back and forth from one foot to another a good many times, as if he had ants in his pants. When he kisses the back of his mom’s neck this time, his lips seem to remain glued there. This embrace, his barely perceptible jaw movements, and her steadily bobbing head all conspire to suggest something vaguely obscene and depraved. Could Andy have become some kind of Dracula, sucking blood from his mother’s neck? Or do the slow pumping rhythm and repeated nervous thrusts represent some kind of sexual motion?… Read more »
A Moment of Innocence
One of the best features by the prolific and unpredictable Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf, this 1996 film also happens to be one of his most seminal and accessible–a reconstruction of a pivotal incident during his teens that landed him in prison for several years during the shah’s regime. A fundamentalist and activist at the time, Makhmalbaf stabbed a policeman; as a consequence he was shot and arrested. Two decades later his politics were quite different, but while he was auditioning people to appear in his film Salaam Cinema, he encountered the same policeman, now unemployed, and the two wound up collaborating on this film about the incident involving them, trying (with separate cameras) to reconcile their versions of what happened. Though no doubt prompted in part by Abbas Kiarostami’s remarkable Close-up (1990)–another eclectic documentary reconstructing past events with two cameras, in that case a hoax involving Makhmalbaf himself–this is no mere imitation but 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.” Music Box, Friday through Thursday, February 18 through 24.
–Jonathan Rosenbaum… Read more »