Daily Archives: February 1, 2002

Life of a Salesman [DIAMOND MEN]

From the Chicago Reader (February 1, 2002). — J.R.

Diamond Men

*** (A must-see)

Directed and written by Daniel M. Cohen

With Robert Forster, Donnie Wahlberg, Bess Armstrong, Jasmine Guy, George Coe, Jeff Gendelman, Nikki Fritz, and Shannah Laumeister.

It’s astonishing how few Hollywood movies tell us anything about the way we spend a third or more of our lives — at work. Maybe this is because the standard industry perception is that people don’t like to think about that part of their existence when they go to movies, that people want to keep their professions and pleasures separate and mutually alienated. The assumption seems to be that work isn’t supposed to be fun but movies are.

Since I don’t have this bias, I found myself uncommonly excited watching Diamond Men, an independent first feature by writer-director Daniel M. Cohen that stars Robert Forster and is playing this week at the Music Box. I have no particular interest in the diamond trade, but I was thrilled to have the opportunity to see a movie that taught me something about what it’s like to drive through small towns in Pennsylvania selling diamonds to jewelry stores — especially since its lessons are being propounded by someone as knowledgeable about the subject as Cohen (who, reports Philadelphia Inquirer film reviewer Carrie Rickey, is a third-generation diamond man from Lancaster) and articulated by an actor as likable as Forster.… Read more »

Dragonfly

The undisputed king of the cornball concept, Kevin Costner has an uncanny aptitude for gravitating toward the dopiest projects in sight, but this time he’s outdone himself. A Chicago doctor in charge of emergency services, he’s been traumatized by the loss of his saintly wife, who’s died on a medical mission to Venezuela; convinced that she’s trying to speak to him through various near-death patients, he awaits the confirmation of his mystic theories that only bad movies can bring. The clunky script is by David Seltzer, Brandon Camp, and Mike Thompson, and someone at Universal must have decided the ideal director for such a delicate topic was Tom Shadyac, best known for the inimitable fart jokes of Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and Eddie Murphy’s The Nutty Professor. The secondary cast includes such talented hands as Linda Hunt and Kathy Bates, who labor admirably but can’t save the patient. 103 min. (JR)… Read more »

The Quiet American [1958]

From the Chicago Reader (February 1, 2002). — J.R.

the-quiet-american-redgrave

Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s 1958 adaptation of the Graham Greene novel certainly makes hash of its anti-American, procommunist elements, but this story about a disillusioned British journalist (Michael Redgrave) and an idealistic American (Audie Murphy) battling over the heart, mind, and body of a Saigon woman was sufficiently provocative for Jean-Luc Godard to declare it the best film of the year. The fact that Mankiewicz cast Italian actress Giorgia Moll as the woman suggests how remote he was from Vietnam, yet the scene in which the American asks the Brit to translate his marriage proposal into Vietnamese must have struck Godard: five years later he cast Moll as an interpreter in Contempt. Though The Quiet American may seem a curious cold war artifact today, it embodies Mankiewicz’s talky cinema in all its measured ambiguity. 120 min. (JR)

 

Quiet American, The (1958)Read more »

The End Of The Affair

Superior in many respects to the higher-profile Neil Jordan remake, this 1955 adaptation of what I’d call Graham Greene’s best novel costars Van Johnson and Deborah Kerr as doomed lovers during the London blitz. Edward Dmytryk directed; with John Mills and Peter Cushing. 105 min. (JR)… Read more »

Diamond Men

In old-fashioned industry terms, this 2001 indie feature qualifies as a sleepera low-budget effort that’s much better than it has any right to be. Writer-director Daniel M. Cohen, a former Pennsylvania diamond salesman whose father and grandfather worked in the same trade, tells the quiet but absorbing tale of a middle-aged salesman (Robert Forster at his best) who’s forced to retire after a heart attack but trains a rookie (Donnie Wahlberg) to take on his clients before he leaves. The second part concentrates on the rookie’s protracted efforts to find a prostitute for the older man, and though this stretch has a few rough spots, the whole thing is resolved in a fairly satisfying (if unexpected) manner. This may not have gotten much publicity, but it’s a lot more engaging than most movies that have; Forster alone makes it unforgettable. 100 min. (JR)… Read more »

The Quiet American [1958] & The Quiet American [2002]

From the Chicago Reader (February 1, 2002). — J.R.

the-quiet-american-redgrave

Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s 1958 adaptation of the Graham Greene novel certainly makes hash of its anti-American, procommunist elements, but this story about a disillusioned British journalist (Michael Redgrave) and an idealistic American (Audie Murphy) battling over the heart, mind, and body of a Saigon woman was sufficiently provocative for Jean-Luc Godard to declare it the best film of the year. The fact that Mankiewicz cast Italian actress Giorgia Moll as the woman suggests how remote he was from Vietnam, yet the scene in which the American asks the Brit to translate his marriage proposal into Vietnamese must have struck Godard: five years later he cast Moll as an interpreter in Contempt. Though The Quiet American may seem a curious cold war artifact today, it embodies Mankiewicz’s talky cinema in all its measured ambiguity. 120 min. (JR)

Quiet American, The (1958)

 

***

From the Chicago Reader (June 1, 2002). — J.R.

the-quiet-american

Phillip Noyce’s first-rate adaptation of Graham Greene’s interesting 1955 anti-American novel about Vietnam, scripted by Christopher Hampton and Robert Schenkkan, was held back by Miramax, its U.S. distributor, for over a year because of September 11 — apparently on the assumption that Americans who considered the terrorist attacks unprovoked would find any criticism of their country’s overseas behavior in the 50s unwarranted and unnecessary.… Read more »

A Page of Madness

From the Chicago Reader (February 1, 2002). It was great to see this amazing, radical masterpiece on TCM last night, even if Ben Mankiewicz consistently mispronounced the director’s name and gave almost completely erroneous information about it. — J.R.

APAGEOFMADNESS

a-page-of-madness

 

Teinosuke Kinugasa’s mind-boggling silent masterpiece of 1926 was thought to have been lost for 40 years until the director discovered a print in his garden shed. A seaman hires on as a janitor at an insane asylum to free his wife, who’s become an inmate after attempting to kill herself and her baby. The film’s expressionist style is all the more surprising because Japan had no such tradition to speak of; Kinugasa hadn’t even seen The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari when he made this. Yet the rhythmic pulsation of graphic, semiabstract depictions of madness makes the film both startling and mesmerizing. I can’t vouch for the live musical accompaniment by Pillow, an unorthodox quartet that’s reportedly quite percussive, but its instrumentation — clarinet, dry ice, tubes, electric guitar, accordion, contrabass, cello — sounds appropriate. 75 min. Presented by Columbia College and Chicago Filmmakers. Columbia College Ferguson Theater, 600 S. Michigan, Friday, February 1, 8:00, 773-293-1447.

a_page_of_madness

a-page-of-madnessRead more »