From the Chicago Reader (July 8, 2005). Nine years later, having recently reseen this fabulous film on Blu-Ray (a beautiful job from Warners, with many enticing extras), I would currently maintain that what I formerly called the “key cinematic sources” should probably have been called key cinematic cross-references — to which one should add Raul Ruiz’s City of Pirates for its own shot which purports to be a view of someone’s teeth from the inside of his mouth. — J.R.
Tim Burton finally fulfills the promise of Beetlejuice (1988) with this imaginative masterpiece, adapted from the 1964 children’s book by Roald Dahl but characterized by Burton’s special feeling for color, architecture, and nightmarish dislocation. Adapted by John August, this schematic fable of five children invited to tour a mysterious candy factory is well served by the surrealistic design, Johnny Depp’s mannerist performance as the androgynous chocolate tycoon Willy Wonka, and the deft digital wizardry that multiplies actor Deep Roy into the entire workforce of the Wonka factory, performing crazed production numbers. (Among the key cinematic sources here are the ice cream factory in the Eddie Cantor musical Kid Millions and the hyperbolic The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T.) There’s a streak of moralism, but it never becomes as sticky as the candy because the invention never flags.… Read more »
According to Scott Yanow’s book Jazz on Film, John Alomfrah’s British documentary The Wonderful World of Louis Armstrong (2001, 65 min.) is marred by the interviewees — among them George Melly, Wynton Marsalis, Dave Brubeck, Max Roach, Gary Giddins, and Lil Hardin Armstrong — talking over the music. By contrast, both the talk and the music in Edward O. Bland’s eccentric Chicago-made short Cry of Jazz (1959, 31 min.) are absolutely essential. The paradox is that Bland’s film centers on jazz and needs various kinds of performance to illustrate its points, yet what’s being played is only adequate; if the music were good enough to distract one from the talk, the film wouldn’t work as well. Lucid and provocative, this is recommended viewing for any jazz novice, one of the best social readings of jazz form I know. (JR)… Read more »
Trained as a musician, English writer-director Sally Potter (The Tango Lesson) still thinks like one. All the dialogue in her timely masterpiece–a passionate post-9/11 love story about an unhappily married Irish-American scientist (Joan Allen) and a younger Lebanese chef (Simon Abkarian) set in London, Belfast, Beirut, and Havana–is written in rhyming iambic pentameter. Beautifully composed and deftly delivered, it becomes the libretto to Potter’s visual music, creating a remarkable lyricism and emotional directness. This is a story about class and age as well as cultural difference, so it matters that the scientist’s dying aunt is a communist and that her sympathetically portrayed estranged husband (Sam Neill) is an English politician. It matters even more that the action is framed by the married couple’s maid (Shirley Henderson), who addresses the camera as she discusses dirt and what we think about it. R, 100 min. Reviewed this week in Section 1. Landmark’s Century Centre.… Read more »
This appeared in the Chicago Reader‘s July 8, 2005 issue. — J.R.
Directed and written by Sally Potter
With Simon Abkarian, Joan Allen, Shirley Henderson, Sam Neill, Wil Johnson, Gary Lewis, Raymond Waring, and Stephanie Leonidas
Yes. A film that irrefutably deserves its title. A film of affirmation. Which is not the same as a story with a happy ending…. If the places in this story become characters, what is the scene? The area of world politics today, nothing less, is the scene — and, above it, the sky to which everyone, at one moment or another, prays. — John Berger
Apparently sales of poetry go up in times of war. — Sally Potter
Many people feel a sense of helplessness about the ongoing war in the Middle East, feelings they’re often unable to articulate, much less address. Sally Potter’s Yes shows one way these feelings can be processed, and in doing so overturns some of the usual assumptions about what movies can and should do. It won’t please everyone, and the sensitive topics it touches on may make some viewers mad enough to spit.
Yes is a post-9/11 love story, set chiefly in London, about a passionate adulterous affair between an Irish-American scientist (Joan Allen), who’s unhappily married to an English politician, and a somewhat younger Lebanese cook (Simon Abkarian), who’s unmarried and used to work as a surgeon in Beirut.… Read more »