From the Chicago Reader (February 22, 2002). — J.R.
** (Worth seeing)
Directed by Marc Forster
Written by Milo Addica and Will Rokos
With Billy Bob Thornton, Halle Berry, Peter Boyle, Heath Ledger, Sean Combs, Mos Def, and Coronji Calhoun.
Monster’s Ball is a Hollywood art movie; even the fancy color graphics imposed on the seedy milieu behind the opening credits tell us that. For some viewers, including a few reviewers, the movie becomes bearable only after an hour of misery, when the lead characters, Hank Grotowski (Billy Bob Thornton) and Leticia Musgrove (Halle Berry), finally get around to having their big sex scene (which I have to admit is worth the price of admission). Maybe the sex is prompted by these characters’ mutual misery, but it also happens because this is a Hollywood movie and these are its stars. And because it’s also an art movie, all the misery preceding the scene makes it feel earned.
Hank is a white corrections officer at the state pen in Georgia who recently guided Leticia’s husband, who’s black, to the electric chair, though it takes him a long time — and her even longer — to figure out the connection.… Read more »
Started in 2000 near the Afghan border in Iran, shot in rough and haphazard conditions, and completed the following spring, this is one of Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s strangest films. An Afghan woman (Nelofer Pazira), exiled to Canada, returns to look for her sister, who still suffers under the Taliban and has threatened to kill herself during the forthcoming solar eclipse. This may sound like a setup for action and suspense, but the narrative is much more splintered than that, combining poetry, black comedy, social protest, and a sharp sense of actuality. The acting is mainly horrendous and the English dialogue is frequently awkward, but they’re overcome by the beautiful colors and settings and a grim sense of the uncanny spilling over into twisted humor. I didn’t even mind when the narrative stopped abruptly; in retrospect, Kandahar seems like an experimental film, a horror story, and a slapstick comedy–sometimes all at once. In Farsi with subtitles; also known as The Sun Behind the Moon. 85 min. Music Box, Friday through Thursday, February 22 through 28. … Read more »
Chantal Akerman’s greatest film–made in 1975 and running 198 minutes–is one of those lucid puzzlers that may drive you up the wall but will keep you thinking for days or weeks. Delphine Seyrig, in one of her greatest performances, plays Jeanne Dielman, a Belgian woman obsessed with performing daily rounds of housework and other routines (including occasional prostitution) in the flat she occupies with her teenage son. The film follows three days in Dielman’s regulated life, and Akerman’s intense concentration on her daily activities–monumentalized by Babette Mangolte’s superb cinematography and mainly frontal camera setups–eventually sensitizes us to the small ways in which her system is breaking down. By placing so much emphasis on aspects of life and work that other films routinely omit, mystify, or skirt around, Akerman forges a major statement, not only in a feminist context but also in a way that tells us something about the lives we all live. In French with subtitles. Admission is free; a new 16-millimeter print will be shown. Northwestern Univ. Block Museum of Art, 1967 South Campus Dr., Evanston, Monday, February 25, 7:00, 847-491-4000.… Read more »