Daily Archives: February 28, 2003

All The Real Girls

David Gordon Green follows up his George Washington with something similar yet also somewhat better. Again the setting is a North Carolina mill town, the milieu mainly working-class, and the period contemporary only in the broadest sense. (Perhaps the surest sign of the present is the heroine’s telling the hero not to smoke in her bedroom.) But this time most of the characters are somewhat older, none is black, the cast includes veteran actors as well as talented first-timers, and the plot is more focused: an offbeat love story between a 22-year-old ladies’ man who’s never left town (cowriter Paul Schneider) and an 18-year-old virgin and recent boarding-school graduate (Zooey Deschanel). This is a lyrical heartbreaker that skirts most love-story cliches and is brave enough to be as inconclusive as the characters. Green’s poetic sensibility and Tim Orr’s lush ‘Scope cinematography give this drifting story a pungent aftertaste. 108 min. (JR)… Read more »

The Son

This potent Belgian feature (2002) by brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne is every bit as good as their La promesse and Rosetta. Unlike them it can’t be described in detail without telegraphing the plot’s carefully structured exposition, but it involves a carpenter and teacher at a vocational workshop (Olivier Gourmet) who takes on a 16-year-old boy as an apprentice, with cataclysmic consequences. Gourmet, who played the hero’s father in La promesse and the heroine’s employer in Rosetta, gives a strong and nuanced performance that deservedly won him the best actor prize at Cannes. The Dardennes’ extremely physical and visceral camera style plunges the viewer into an emotional maelstrom, and their subtle, unpredictable sense of character is predicated not on coercion of the audience but on an extraordinary respect for the viewer as well as the characters. To my knowledge there’s no one else making films with such a sharp sense of contemporary working-class lifebut for the Dardennes it’s only the starting point of a spiritual and profoundly ethical odyssey. In French with subtitles. 103 min. (JR)… Read more »

The Cinema Of Horror: Avant-garde Program

Showing as part of the lecture series The Cinema of Horror: Maya Deren’s first film, Meshes of the Afternoon (1943, 18 min.), and four of the most famous short films of Kenneth Anger: Fireworks (1947, 15 min.), Scorpio Rising (1963, 29 min.), Invocation of My Demon Brother (1969, 12 min.), and Lucifer Rising (1980, 29 min.). If you’ve never seen these highly personal and essential works, this should be an excellent introduction. (JR)… Read more »

Black Rain

Not to be confused with the Ridley Scott thriller released the same year, this black-and-white 1989 feature by Shohei Imamura takes on the unpredictable physical and psychological aftereffects of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Based on a celebrated novel by Masuji Ibuse, it focuses on a young woman who’s just moved to a village across a wide bay from the city when the bomb falls. Most of the plot unfolds years later, yet Imamura repeatedly returns to the bombing’s immediate aftermath, and one of the more striking of these traumatic and haunting flashbacks is boldly rendered just with sound effects and changes in lighting. Imamura’s style here, for all its inventiveness, is uncharacteristically subdued and sober. Like his last worka devastating episode in the anthology film September 11this is one of the few movies that’s addressed Hiroshima without blinking. In Japanese with subtitles. 123 min. (JR)… Read more »

Cop-Out [DARK BLUE]

From the Chicago Reader (February 28, 2003). — J.R.

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Dark Blue

* (Has redeeming facet)

Directed by Ron Shelton

Written by David Ayer and James Ellroy

With Kurt Russell, Scott Speedman, Brendan Gleeson, Michael Michele, Ving Rhames, Lolita Davidovich, Kurupt, and Jamison Jones.

A curious kind of double game is being played in Dark Blue, a cop thriller that sets out to “explain” the 1992 LA riots. For a good while I sat thinking, “At last — a movie that doesn’t mince words about police corruption and racism,” for even if it’s a decade late and a bit simplistic in some of its moral positioning, the story doesn’t soft-pedal the facts. (It even prompted me to think how useful it might be if someone in Hollywood delivered a thriller about the Enron scandal — not ten years from now but before the next presidential election.) But I soon realized that the attempt to wed a comfortable genre to an uncomfortable social agenda allowed another kind of soft-pedaling to take over.

The filmmakers — Ron Shelton directing a David Ayer script based on a James Ellroy story — obviously want us to swallow a bitter pill, but traditionally Hollywood genres, even the LA cop thriller, are sweet and don’t have much of an aftertaste.… Read more »