Daily Archives: October 24, 2003

Beyond Borders

A superior soap opera, evocative at times of Warren Beatty’s Reds, this follows the joint humanitarian efforts and eventual romance of a pampered American living in England (Angelina Jolie) and an angry but dedicated renegade doctor (Clive Owen) who ministers to the sick in North Africa during the mid-80s, in Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge regime, and in Chechnya during the mid-90s. The urgency of their causes is forcefully conveyed, along with their sincerity and their anger at the obstacles they face. Shooting in ‘Scope, director Martin Campbell makes this scenic but never unduly touristic (no easy feat); the script is by Caspian Tredwell-Owen. With Teri Polo, Linus Roache, Noah Emmerich, and Yorick van Wageningen. 127 min. (JR)… Read more »

Alien: The Director’s Cut

As with the director’s cut of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, this is no restoration but a revision; roughly five minutes of the original have been cut and roughly four of previously unused footage have been added. If there’s a difference in overall quality, I’m unaware of it. Dave Kehr calls this 1979 feature an empty-headed horror movie with nothing to recommend it beyond the disco-inspired art direction and some handsome if gimmicky cinematography. The science fiction trappings add little to the primitive conception, which features a rubber monster running amok in a spaceship. Scott relies on suspense techniques that looked tired in The Perils of Pauline: for the most part, things simply jump out and go ‘boo!’ Under the circumstances, the allusions to Joseph Conrad (Nostromo) and Howard Hawks (The Thing) seem unforgivably presumptuous. Instead of characters, the film has bodies; some of them are lent by Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, Veronica Cartwright, and Yaphet Kotto. 116 min. (JR)… Read more »

The Iceman Cometh

Lee Marvin was great in his own right, but he’s disastrously miscast as the high-rolling Theodore Hickey in this 1973 film of one of Eugene O’Neill’s greatest plays, adapted by John Frankenheimer for the American Film Theatre series. Robert Ryan, Jeff Bridges, Bradford Dillman, and Moses Gunn are worth seeing as the hapless dreamers awaiting Hickey’s arrival at Harry Hope’s Last Chance Saloon, and though the running time is 239 minutes plus a ten-minute intermission, O’Neill needs the sprawl to capture the characters’ desperation. (JR)… Read more »

The Maids

If you don’t know Jean Genet’s extraordinary first play, this misguided production by Christopher Miles, adapted from his own stage version for the American Film Theatre series in 1975, is likely to pack a wallop. Otherwise, I’d avoid this like the plague. With Glenda Jackson, Susannah York, and Vivian Merchant. 94 min. (JR)… Read more »

Sylvia

Broadly speaking, the popular literary biopic is a hopeless subgenre, but this account of the relationship between Sylvia Plath and husband and fellow poet Ted Hughes manages to test the rule thanks to its unusual seriousness and first-rate performances by Gwyneth Paltrow and Daniel Craig. Director Christine Jeffs and writer John Brownlow scrupulously avoid taking sides in the volatile marriage–a delicate task given the four decades of verbal and legal warfare between the couple’s partisans, not to mention the aura of myth that surrounds Plath’s suicide at 30, which brought her a level of recognition she never achieved in life. Though constrained from quoting Plath’s work at length, the film manages to convey that the sexiness of poetry itself was the honey that drew the couple together and made them, at least initially, inseparable. Paltrow’s mother, Blythe Danner, plays Plath’s mother with such insight that I was sorry the role wasn’t made bigger, proportionate to the importance she had in Plath’s life. Jared Harris and Amira Casar fare much better in their respective roles as poet Al Alvarez and Hughes’s lover, Assia Wevill. Century 12 and CineArts 6, Pipers Alley.… Read more »