Daily Archives: June 11, 2004

All Quiet On The Western Front

Recently rediscovered and restored, this silent version of Lewis Milestone’s 1930 feature, with a synchronized score, is evidently the version that was begun first. The better-known sound version, which originally ran 140 minutes, is now only a minute shorter than this one, which doesn’t necessarily imply that the same footage has been used throughout. I haven’t seen this, but if its impact compares with the talking version’s, it should be well worth checking out. With Lew Ayres and Louis Wolheim. 133 min. (JR)… Read more »

The Terminal

Tom Hanks hams it up in this Steven Spielberg comedy, as a sort of grown-up E.T. visiting the U.S. from a fictional eastern European country. After landing at JFK airport he learns that his native land has been torn asunder by civil war; able neither to return nor acquire a visa, he winds up living at the airport for a spell, becoming the pal of other disenfranchised little people who work there. Early reports suggested this might owe something to Jacques Tati’s Playtime, which proves to be true mainly in the product placement and a few bits of physical comedy. As usual Spielberg is too bored by everyday life to use his premise for anything but a fairy tale, whose cheap pathos suggests a bad Chaplin imitation. This grows progressively phonier and eventually devolves into Mr. Roberts, with Stanley Tucci filling in for James Cagney as an airport bureaucrat. With Catherine Zeta-Jones; written by Sacha Gervasi, Andrew Niccol, and Jeff Nathanson. PG-13, 128 min. (JR)… Read more »

Writers On The Borders: A Voyage In Palestine(s)

Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish recruited eight writers from around the worldincluding China, Europe, the U.S. (Russell Banks), and South Africa (Breyten Breytenbach)to tour various high places of spirituality that have also been sites of Israeli aggression, and Samir Abdallah and Jose Reynes record their statements and discussions as well as their travels. This 2003 French documentary is more effective as a collective and sometimes eloquent act of witness than as a source of fresh information. In English and subtitled Arabic, Hebrew, French, Spanish, and Mandarin. 80 min.… Read more »

Route 181: Fragments Of A Journey In Palestine-Israel

We’re human, unlike the Arabs, says an Israeli soldier in this 2003 documentary. The remark sums up the bias of Western media in covering Baghdad and the West Bank, a bias that makes this an eye-opening experience. Named after United Nations Resolution 181 (which divided Palestine into two states in 1947), the film is a road diary following the two directors, Michel Khleifi of Palestine and Eyal Sivan of Israel, along the resulting boundary; it gets closer to the everyday facts of Arab-Jewish relations in all their complexity than any other documentary I’ve seen. Its three discrete parts — covering the south, the center, and the north — run 84 minutes each and can be seen in any order. (JR)… Read more »

The Purple Plain

Gregory Peck plays a traumatized Canadian who crash-lands in Burma during World War II and recovers his strength while traveling cross-country. Adapted by Eric Ambler from an H.E. Bates novel, directed by the otherwise unnotable Robert Parrish, and shot in color by Geoffrey Unsworth, this British war drama (1954) has achieved something of an underground reputation in the U.S. (it’s been favorably compared to The Thin Red Line) but appears mainly to have been forgotten in the UK. With Win Min Than and Maurice Denham. 102 min. (JR)… Read more »

The Stepford Wives

After losing her job as a network TV president, a spindly Nicole Kidman suffers a nervous collapse; she heads to a Connecticut suburb to recuperate with her hubby (Matthew Broderick) and kids, but finds the housewives there too perfect and bimbolike. If this satirical SF comedy has an auteur, it’s screenwriter Paul Rudnick, whose cheerful contempt for American wholesomeness animated In & Out and Addams Family Values. Glenn Close and Bette Midler get some comic mileage out of the premise, which originated in a novel by Ira Levin (Rosemary’s Baby) but also suggests Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Unfortunately this is much tamer than it had to beRudnick Lite, meaning on the edge of evaporation. Frank Oz (In & Out) directed; with Christopher Walken and Roger Bart. PG-13, 93 min. (JR)… Read more »

Control Room & Route 181: Fragments of a Journey in Palestine-Israel

From the Chicago Reader (June 11, 2004). It’s worth adding that Control Room can be seen now in its entirety on YouTube, which also has excerpts from Route 181; and further information about the latter film, go here. — J.R.

Route 181

ControlRoom

“We’re human, unlike the Arabs,” says an Israeli soldier in Route 181: Fragments of a Journey in Palestine-Israel (2003), which screens this week — along with Writers on the Borders: A Voyage in Palestine(s) (see separate listing) — as part of the Chicago Palestine Film Festival. The remark sums up the bias of Western media in covering Baghdad and the West Bank, a bias that makes both Route 181 and Control Room, a new documentary that isn’t part of the festival, eye-opening experiences. The first film, named after United Nations Resolution 181 (which divided Palestine into two states in 1947), is a road diary following the two directors, Michel Khleifi of Palestine and Eyal Sivan of Israel, along the resulting boundary; it gets closer to the everyday facts of Arab-Jewish relations in all their complexity than any other documentary I’ve seen. Its three discrete parts — covering the south, the center, and the north — run 84 minutes each and can be seen in any order (separate admissions apply, but a rebate is offered to those who view all three).… Read more »