From the Chicago Reader (January 28, 2005, slightly tweaked in 2014). Now that this is out on Blu-Ray, the Technicolor seems every bit as luscious to me as it must have when I was age six, and the periodic prophecies (“His name will be written in the Book of Judges”; “Men will tell his story for a thousand years”) are no less indelible. — J.R.
If you can tolerate the hokeyness and appreciate the unabashed sado-masochism and bondage fantasies, you’re likely to find this 1949 feature one of Cecil B. De Mille’s most enjoyable sword-and-sandal epics, delivered with his characteristic showmanship. Victor Mature and Hedy Lamarr are the title characters, backed by George Sanders and Angela Lansbury, but the real attractions are the kitschy spectacle (lions, collapsing temples) and De Mille’s special way with religion, sex, and violence. 128 min. (JR)
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Upon learning that her promiscuous folksinger mother has died, an 18-year-old dropout (Scarlett Johansson) leaves the Florida panhandle for New Orleans and moves into her mother’s house, which has been willed equally to her and a couple of alcoholic deadbeatsa former English professor (John Travolta) and his teaching assistant (Gabriel Macht). This is mainly the girl’s story, though the numerous southern archetypes out of Tennessee Williams and Carson McCullers (who’s explicitly referenced) keep threatening to overwhelm her. Travolta in particular chews the scenery as the pontificating (and sometimes folksinging) Bobby Long, commanding attention despite his shopworn character. First-time director Shainee Gabel adapted a novel by Ronald Everett Capps called Off Magazine Street. With Deborah Kara Unger. R, 119 min. (JR)… Read more »
Inspired partly by King Vidor’s The Champ, this silent 1933 masterpiece by Yasujiro Ozu takes place in a Tokyo slum, where a slow-witted, good-hearted, heavy-drinking day laborer (Takeshi Sakamoto) tries to deal with his rebellious son (Tokkan Kozo). It opens with one of the funniest stretches of slapstick Ozu ever filmed, though the remainder is colored by Chaplinesque pathos. As the loving and lovable father, Sakamoto creates one of the most complex characters in Japanese cinema, and Kozo (who played the younger brother in I Was Born, But…) isn’t far behind. The milieu they inhabit is perfectly realized, making this a pinnacle in Ozu’s career. In Japanese with subtitles. 103 min. (JR)… Read more »
Does this mean a second rebirth? Whatever. Kunio Miyoshi directed this 1997 Japanese feature, also known as Mothra 2: The Undersea Battle. 97 min. (JR)… Read more »
Some key works of the British Free Cinema movement of the mid-1950s, which combined elements of cinema verite and naturalism: Lindsay Anderson’s O Dreamland (1953), Karel Reisz’s Momma Don’t Allow (1956), Lorenza Mazzetti and Denis Home’s Together (1956), and Claude Goretta and Alain Tanner’s Nice Time (1957). 102 min. (JR)… Read more »
From the Chicago Reader (January 28, 2005). — J.R.
*** (A must-see)
Directed and written by Jean-Luc Godard
With Sarah Adler, Nade Dieu, Godard, Rony Kramer, Mahmoud Darwich, Jean-Christopher Bouvet, Simon Eine, Juan Goytisolo, Peirre Bergounioux, George Aguilar, Leticia Gutierrez, Jean-Paul Curnier, and Gilles Pequeux.
Jean-Luc Godard has had a tendency to be combative and obscure. He’s a lot calmer and steadier in his latest feature, Notre musique, opening this week at the Music Box. He’s also been making an effort to express his intentions clearly and simply in interviews, including those with the mainstream American press. Yet some viewers will probably still feel excluded and puzzled by his methods as a filmmaker and his habits as a thinker, however beautiful and powerful the results.
Even if one can deal with Godard’s compulsive use of metaphor and abstraction and his Eurocentric perspective — all standard in much of his late work — there’s something morose and emotionally remote about this film. Around a sense of futility, a disenchantment with the world, he builds a kind of poetics that’s akin to some of the excesses associated with German romanticism. The issue isn’t whether such despair is warranted, but what one does with it.… Read more »
Perhaps the most delightful of Yasujiro Ozu’s late comedies (1959), this very loose remake of his earlier I Was Born, But . . . (1932) pivots around the rebellion of two brothers whose father refuses to buy a TV set. The layered compositions of the suburban topography are extraordinary, as are the intricate interweavings of the various characters and miniplots. The title is Japanese for “good morning,” and the film’s profound and gentle depiction of social exchanges extends to the farting games of schoolboys. The color photography is vibrant and exquisite. In Japanese with subtitles. 93 min. Sat 1/29, 3 PM, and Thu 2/3, 6 PM, Gene Siskel Film Center.… Read more »
Jean-Luc Godard isn’t being as hard on his audience this time around, and it seems to have paid off: I’ve yet to encounter any hostile critical response to this feature, a mellow and meditative reflection on the ravages of war. Set in Sarajevo and structured in three parts after Dante’s Divine Comedy, this beautiful film centers on a young French-Jewish journalist based in Israel who’s attending the same literary conference as Godard. The wars it contemplates through a montage of documentary and archival footage include those waged in Algeria, Vietnam, Bosnia, and the Middle East; Native American victims also make an appearance in Sarajevo, alongside certain others. In French with subtitles. 80 min. (Reviewed this week in Section 1.) Music Box.… Read more »