Daily Archives: July 16, 2004

Seamen’s Wives

Henk Kleinman’s gritty 1930 drama in seven acts was meant to be the first Dutch talkie, but technical difficulties made it the last Dutch silent film. In 2003 composer Henny Vrienten did a postmodernist reconstruction of the original, adding music, sound effects, and synced dialogueand creating an obvious disjunct between the 30s visuals and the modern stereo sound. It’s a fascinating experiment, and not bad as a period melodrama: the realistic working-class details of waterfront life in Amsterdam occasionally evoke Stroheim’s Greed, and there are some hallucinatory split-screen effects toward the end. In Dutch with subtitles. 85 min. (JR)… Read more »

The Door In The Floor

A dysfunctional family drama to end all dysfunctional family dramas, Tod Williams’s adaptation of the John Irving novel A Widow for One Year depends a lot on delayed exposition to explain why a writer of children’s books (Jeff Bridges) and his wife (Kim Basinger), who have a four-year-old daughter but have lost their grown son in an accident, are so estranged. The dramatic catalyst is a teenager from the city (Jon Foster) who’s hired as the writer’s assistant and becomes the wife’s lover, and I wish some of Williams’s critical view of the family had extended to that character as well. The cast, which also includes Mimi Rogers, is strong, and by the end the story is more satisfying than you might expect. R, 111 min. (JR)… Read more »

Little Rascal

This rarely seen and recently restored Dutch feature was directed by Douglas Sirk in 1939, when he was still calling himself Detlef Sierckhe’d recently fled Germany and would soon depart for the U.S. Adapted by Carl Zuckmayer from a popular play about a thieving ragamuffin in Rotterdam, it’s one of Sirk’s least personal efforts, most notable for having the 12-year-old boy hero played by the 45-year-old actress who had the part onstage, Annie van Ees. The prominent role played by a priest in the story may call to mind The First Legion, one of Sirk’s most interesting early features in the U.S., but the mise en scene is far more routine. Also known as Wilton’s Zoo. In Dutch with subtitles. 94 min. (JR)… Read more »

The Little Giant

A reasonably plucky spin-off of Little Caesar made three years later (1933), with Edward G. Robinson playing a bootlegger who tries to improve himself and crash high society. With Mary Astor and Helen Vinson; the reliable Roy Del Ruth directed. 75 min. (JR)… Read more »

The Corporation

Absorbing and instructive, this 2003 Canadian documentary tackles no less a subject than the geopolitical impact of the corporation, forcing us to reexamine an institution that may regulate our lives more than any other. Directors Mark Achbar (Manufacturing Consent) and Jennifer Abbott and writer Joel Bakan cogently summarize the history of the chartered corporation, showing how it accumulated the legal privileges of a person even as it shed the responsibilities. This conceit allows the filmmakers to catalog all manner of corporate malfeasance as they argue, wittily and persuasively, that corporations are clinically psychotic. The talking heads include not only political commentators like Noam Chomsky, Milton Friedman, Naomi Klein, Michael Moore, and Howard Zinn, but CEOs such as Ray Anderson, Sam Gibara, Robert Keyes, Jonathon Ressler, and Clay Timon, whose insights vary enormously. This runs 165 minutes, but it’s so packed with ideas that I wasn’t bored for a second. Landmark’s Century Centre.… Read more »