Daily Archives: December 6, 2002

No, Or The Vainglory Of Command

One of the most ambitious and accomplished works by Portugal’s premier filmmaker, Manoel de Oliveirawho turns 94 this month and is still fully active. Made in 1990, it contrives to tell the entire history of Portugal through a series of stories a Portuguese lieutenant uses to distract his colonial troops in Angola in 1973. This being Oliveira, you should expect the unexpected; the wordless opening sequence focuses on a massive tree. In Portuguese with subtitles. 110 min. (JR)… Read more »

Alias Betty

A successful novelist in suburban Paris (Sandrine Kiberlain) loses her young son in an accident, so her disturbed mother (Nicole Garcia), who suffers from the blood imbalance porphyria, steals the unwanted son of a hooker from the projects as a replacement. Writer-director Claude Miller is a capable storyteller, and this 2001 semithriller, adapted from Ruth Rendell’s Tree of Hands, held me through its intricate plotting and often fascinating notations of class difference. As long as Miller simply crosscuts between the machinations of the three mothers, the sociological and psychological parallels are intriguing, but when they’re forced to share the same story line, the contrivances and coincidences begin to seem fussily elaborate. In French with subtitles; the original and more descriptive title is Betty Fisher et autres histoires. 101 min. (JR)… Read more »

The Trials Of Henry Kissinger

Derived from Christopher Hitchens’s book-length indictment of Kissinger for war crimes, this BBC documentary by Alex Gibney and Eugene Jarecki is easy to like from the moment you hear the strains of Lush Life at the beginning, and it provides a valuable refresher course in our less-acknowledged methods of meddling in the affairs of other countries, killing many innocent people in the process. But I soon began to wonder why the filmmakers insist on personalizingand thereby mystifyingthe institutional policies implementing this mischief, and whether Hitchens’s own brand of Vanity Fair star politics (which apparently focuses on Kissinger because he attends some of the same parties) led to his recent swerve to the right and his endorsement of Bush’s preemptive war tactics. In any event, Gibney and Jarecki deserve credit for opening this can of worms. 80 min. (JR)… Read more »