Daily Archives: August 20, 2004

Certain Women

A low-rent version of Erskine Caldwell’s trashy 1957 novel of the same title, shot on various cheap video formats and cast with nonprofessionals. This small-town tale about working-class women was inspired by the filmmakers’ academic interest in the story’s alleged protofeminism. Peggy Ahwesh codirected with Bobby Abate; a talented and adventurous filmmaker on other outings, she seems limited this time by her pedagogical agenda. The picture also suffers from a tendency to slip in and out of period. 75 min. (JR)… Read more »

Peep “TV” Show

I headed the critics’ jury at Rotterdam in 2004 that gave its top prize to Yutaka Tsuchiya’s exceedingly weird fiction documentary video about teenyboppers drifting around Shibuya, Tokyo’s fashionable shopping district. (Another big fan of the film, incidentally, is Claire Denis.) Bewildering in the best sense, this kinky low-tech digital video is fascinating for its Martian-like characters—dressed like fairy-tale figures and preoccupied with obscure rituals—and its singular use of space, which combines the claustrophobia imposed by small cubicles, TV screens, and surveillance cameras with the vast exterior reaches of the urban landscape, confounding our usual grasp of inside and out, public and private. Imagine Blade Runner restaged inside someone’s closet. In Japanese with subtitles. 98 min. (JR)… Read more »

We Don’t Live Here Anymore

Adapted by Larry Gross from two stories by Andre Dubus (We Don’t Live Here Anymore and Adultery), this well-acted drama about two tightly interconnected married couples (Mark Ruffalo and Laura Dern, Peter Krause and coproducer Naomi Watts) in a small college town in Washington State is especially acute about the complex dynamics whereby a lousy spouse can be a good parent and vice versa. John Curran directed; the very capable Maryse Alberti handled the cinematography. R, 104 min. (JR)… Read more »

Revolution

Bob Avakian, chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, presents a critical analysis of American social problems in this 136-minute video, the first installment of a four-part, daylong lecture that’s also available on VHS and DVD. This may sound forbiddingly dry, but Avakian (making what’s reported to be his first public appearance since 1979) is skillful, lucid, charismatic, and less dogmatic than you might imagine. This first part lacks the sort of tactical information found in the later ones, and to its detriment Avakian focuses on American horror stories such as lynchings while ignoring the victims of Stalin and Mao. But his dissection of contemporary America is often strong and never condescending; come with an open mind and you might be surprised. (JR)… Read more »

Red Lights

A disaffected middle-aged couple (Jean-Pierre Darroussin and Carole Bouquet) drive south to pick up their kids from summer camp, the husband drinking steadily along the way. After a nasty separation, the husband gives a lift to an escaped convict (Vincent Deniard), and what began as domestic melodrama veers in the direction of Hitchcockian suspense and existential dread. Over time the imagery becomes increasingly inflected by the husband’s viewpoint until it periodically starts to register like a nightmare. Director Cedric Kahn, Laurence Ferreira Barbosa, and Gilles Marchand collaborated on the well-honed script, derived from a Georges Simenon novel. The film works well with quiet tensions, but becomes less convincing and interesting once it moves beyond them. In French with subtitles. 106 min. (JR)… Read more »

A Lucky Day

Filmed in 2000 during the riots in Buenos Aires, this vibrant 2001 indie feature by Sandra Gugliotta may already be a little dated, but it’s still the only Argentinean film I saw in last year’s Chicago Latino Film Festival that seemed to reflect current events. After a brief fling with a visiting Italian, a young woman at loose ends (vividly played by Valentina Bassi) tries to raise money by dealing drugs so she can split for Rome. Her relationships with her grandfather, an emigre anarchist from Italy, and with a local partner in crime who loves her are both touching, but the film is most potent in capturing a time and place. In Spanish with subtitles. 97 min. Facets Cinamatheque.… Read more »