Monthly Archives: August 2005

The Guardsman

Apart from the even more obscure silent film Second Youth, this early talkie (1931) is the only time the famous acting couple Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne starred in a moviea Molnar comedy about a jealous husband testing his wife, later remade as The Chocolate Soldier and Lily in Love. Sidney Franklin directed; with Roland Young, ZaSu Pitts, and Herman Bing. 89 min. (JR)… Read more »

The World

Suggesting at different moments a backstage musical, a failed love story, a surreal comedy, and even a cartoon fantasy, this beautiful, corrosive, visionary masterpiece by Jia Zhang-ke (2004) is a frighteningly persuasive account of the current state of the planet. Set in an eerie Beijing theme parka kind of Chinese Las Vegas, with scaled-down duplicates of the most famous global landmarksit follows a bunch of workers as they labor, carouse, couple, and uncouple, but it’s really about propping up extravagant illusions through alienated labor. Though Jia is one of the most respected directors in mainland China, this film was his first to get an official release there. In Mandarin and Shanxi dialect with subtitles. 139 min. (JR)… Read more »

Saraband

By now Ingmar Bergman has concocted many a postscript to his illustrious career. What makes this masterful if sprawling 2003 sequel to Scenes From a Marriage (1973) remarkable is that at the director’s insistence it was shot and is being shown on digital video. This matters because, in spite of Bergman’s consummate skill with his actors (chiefly Liv Ullmann and Erland Josephson), he makes no attempt whatever to hide his contempt for the medium apart from its usefulness as a recording device. The lack of stylistic finesse that results, whether deliberate or inadvertent, becomes a kind of shocking honesty about the creepiness of Bergman’s sensibility: solipsistically self-pitying, spiritually constipated, and utterly without interest in overcoming these flaws. R, 120 min. In Swedish with subtitles. Reviewed this week in Section 1. Music Box. … Read more »

Broken Flowers

Bill Murray’s minimalism as an actor combines with Jim Jarmusch’s as a writer-director to yield a certain redundancy, making this comedy Jarmusch’s starkest feature to date. The tragedy of Dead Man and Ghost Dog is missing, but there’s genuine poignancy in the attempts of Murray, who plays a wealthy retiree in perpetual denial, to discover which of his former girlfriends (played by Sharon Stone, Frances Conroy, Jessica Lange, and Tilda Swinton) is the mother of the 19-year-old son who he’s been told may be looking for him. The sadness of his life (and theirs) is palpable; still, there’s an undeniable sweetness to Murray’s friendship with his next-door neighbor (Jeffrey Wright), a working-class Ethiopian who facilitates his quest. R, 105 min. Reviewed this week in Section 1. Century 12 and CineArts 6, Pipers Alley, River East 21. … Read more »

Midnight Mary

I haven’t seen this 1933 hard-luck story, told in flashback, about a character who’s orphaned at 9, seduced at 16, and eventually sent to prison. But director William Wellman was generally at his best in the 30s, and I’d expect it to be tart and lively. Written by Anita Loos; with Loretta Young, Ricardo Cortez, Franchot Tone, Andy Devine, and Una Merkel. 74 min. (JR)… Read more »