Daily Archives: February 20, 2004

Chronicle Of The Years Of Embers

Mohammed Lakhdar-Hamina’s 1975 Algerian feature in ‘Scope, about a peasant joining the Algerian war of independence, won the Palme d’Or at Cannes but has seldom been seen or discussed since. In Arabic with subtitles. 177 min. (JR)… Read more »

Star Spangled To Death

Initially shot in 16-millimeter between 1957 and ’59, periodically expanded and updated over the following decades, and completed last year on video in a six-and-a-half-hour final version, Ken Jacobs’s magnum opus of political protest is made of the same basic ingredients as the rest of his oeuvre: beautifully shot scenes of cavorting friends and comrades (including Jerry Sims, a pre-Flaming Creatures Jack Smith, and some recent anti-Bush protesters) and found footage (including most of Nixon’s Checkers speech, campaign propaganda for Nelson Rockefeller, a fatuously racist documentary about Africa, and Al Jolson in blackface). Semi-indigestible by design, this nonetheless steadily builds in political and historical resonance. (JR)… Read more »

Working Girls

Not to be confused with Lizzie Borden’s 1987 feature about New York prostitutes, although Dorothy Arzner’s brazen 1931 drama about two small-town sisters (Dorothy Hall and Judith Wood) looking for jobs and men in the big city sometimes makes a few parallel feminist observations. The dumbness of Hall’s character gets laid on with a trowel at times (Aw, you don’t have to speak so sarcasmly, she says at one point), and the movie never seems to make up its mind whether the European intellectual (Paul Lukas) who hires her as a secretary is predatory or a patsy. But the Depression atmosphere is indelible. With Charles Buddy Rogers. 77 min. (JR)… Read more »

Welcome To Mooseport

A former U.S. president (Gene Hackman) returns to his small hometown in Maine and runs for mayor against a local plumber (Ray Romano). According to this amiable, archaic, conventionally deceitful piece of Capracorn (directed by Donald Petrie from a script by Tom Schulman and story by Doug Richardson) local yokels and ex-presidents are brothers under the skin, equally in need of a good woman (Marcia Gay Harden and Maura Tierney in this instance) to set them on the straight and narrow path. Tierney and Hackman contribute most to keeping this life-size and funny. With Christine Baranski and Rip Torn. PG-13, 115 min. (JR)… Read more »

Against The Ropes

Meg Ryan capably plays what appears to be an idealized version of boxing promoter Jackie Kallen in a drama directed by Charles Dutton from a script by Cheryl Edwards. The story focuses on the first fighter the heroine promotes (reportedly a composite character), played by Omar Epps. I’m not a fan of the sport, but the boxing sequences held me and the overall atmosphere seems reasonably authentic. The treatment of Kallen’s gender battles should have been just as interesting, but here the dramatic developments are less clearly and effectively defined, and the character is ultimately a cipher; some early glimpses of Kallen as a little girl are especially unconvincing. With Tony Shalhoub. PG-13, 110 min. (JR)… Read more »

Dream On (THE DREAMERS)

From the Chicago Reader (February 20, 2004). — J.R.

The Dreamers

** (Worth seeing)

Directed by Bernardo Bertolucci

Written by Gilbert Adair

With Michael Pitt, Eva Green, Louis Garrel, Robin Renucci, and Anna Chancellor.

Nostalgia is highly selective, abridging the past and adjusting it to fit the terms of the present — and often becoming an ideological con job in the process. Those who wax nostalgic about the radicalism of their youth usually imply that the values that made it so attractive back then also make it impossible to hold on to today.

Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Dreamers, set in Paris over three months in early 1968, focuses on an American student, Matthew (Michael Pitt), who becomes intimately involved with a French brother and sister, Theo (Louis Garrel) and Isabelle (Eva Green), whom he meets at the Cinémathèque. Invited into the siblings’ flat just before their parents leave on vacation, he gets drawn into their perverse and vaguely incestuous games, which combine charades involving movies, sex, and ultimately politics. Their interactions run parallel to the French government’s firing of the disorderly director of the Cinémathèque, Henri Langlois, and the ensuing outcry among cinephiles and filmmakers. Street demonstrations led to clashes with the police — and turned out to be dress rehearsals for the student demonstrations and workers’ strikes that May, which came dangerously close to shutting the country down.… Read more »