Daily Archives: March 29, 2002

The Screening Process [NO SUCH THING & THE SLEEPY TIME GAL]

From the Chicago Reader (March 29, 2002). — J.R.

No Such Thing ** (Worth seeing)

Directed and written by Hal Hartley

With Sarah Polley, Robert John Burke, Helen Mirren, Baltasar Kormakur, Paul Lazar, Annika Peterson, and Julie Christie

The Sleepy Time Gal *** (A must-see)

Directed and written by Christopher Munch

With Jacqueline Bisset, Martha Plimpton, Nick Stahl, Amy Madigan, Frankie R. Faison, Carmen Zapata, Peggy Gormley, and Seymour Cassel.

On March 29 two new American independent features of some importance will debut. Hal Hartley’s No Such Thing — not one of his best movies — will open at Pipers Alley, and Christopher Munch’s The Sleepy Time Gal, which I prefer, will premiere exclusively on the Sundance cable channel. Chances are, a lot more people will see the Munch film, though they’ll have to be subscribers to the Sundance Channel or have a friend who is.

Considering these two films together is a breach of reviewing etiquette: movies that premiere in theaters are supposed to be in a different category than movies that premiere on TV. I first saw the Munch film, about a woman dying of cancer, last fall on video at the Vancouver International Film Festival, and I remember looking forward to seeing it on the big screen.

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2001: A Space Odyssey

The rerelease of this 1968 masterpiece in 70-millimeter, planned by director Stanley Kubrick well before his death, was so indifferently promoted by Warner Brothers in New York last year that most people were unaware it had even happened. Now the film is belatedly hitting Chicago in a limited release, digitally restored and with remastered sound, providing an ideal opportunity to rediscover this great spectacle, adventure, and mind-blowing myth of origin as it was meant to be seen and heard, an experience no video, laser disc, or DVD setup, no matter how elaborate, could ever begin to approach. The film remains threatening to contemporary studio-think in many important ways: Its special effects are used so seamlessly as part of an overall artistic strategy that, as critic Annette Michelson has pointed out, they don’t even register as such, and thus are almost impossible to trivialize, a feat unmatched in movies. Dialogue plays a minimal role, yet the plot encompasses the history of mankind (a province of SF visionary Olaf Stapledon, who inspired Kubrick’s cowriter, Arthur C. Clarke). And, like its flagrantly underrated companion piece, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, it meditates at length on the complex relationship between humanity and technology — not only the human qualities that we ascribe to machines but also the programming we knowingly or unknowingly submit to.… Read more »