From the Chicago Reader (December 2, 2005). Also reprinted in my collection Goodbye Cinema, Hello Cinephilia. — J.R.
This weekend the Gene Siskel Film Center launches “Merry Marilyn!,” a Marilyn Monroe retrospective, starting with two pivotal Howard Hawks features, Monkey Business (1952) and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953). The series will include most of her major films at Fox as well as Some Like It Hot (1959) and The Misfits (1960).
By coincidence Playboy this month is publishing a package of stories about her final days and death. The magazine is reviving the popular conspiracy theory that Monroe’s reported suicide in August 1962 was murder, the consequence of her secret affairs with John and Bobby Kennedy. If, like me, you’re less interested in how she died than in how she lived, the most interesting part of this package is an inexact transcript of the freewheeling confessional tape recordings she made for her psychiatrist, Ralph Greenson, a few weeks before her death. Greenson had asked her to free-associate during their sessions, but she found that difficult. Then she discovered that she lost her inhibitions when she was by herself speaking into a recorder. Shortly after her autopsy Greenson played these tapes—once, in his office—for Los Angeles County deputy district attorney John Miner, who like him was skeptical that Monroe had been of a mind to kill herself.… Read more »
Tom Arnold, whose career has fizzled since he appeared in True Lies, cowrote and stars in this comedy about an actor whose career has fizzled since he appeared in True Lies. His suicide attempt is interrupted when his agent (Henry Winkler) brings him a million-dollar offer to write and costar in a True Lies sequel, but the movie’s a vanity project bankrolled by a billionaire producer (Joe Mantegna) starring the producer’s son (Eric Gores), who has cerebral palsy, and intended to premiere at the kid’s 18th birthday party. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis must have a soft spot for the disabled kids of billionaires, because both have cameos near the end of this vulgar and dreadfully dopey enterprise; more impressively savvy is director Penelope Spheeris, who plays herself directing the movie-within-a-movie and manages to seem superfluous in both roles. With Richard Edson and Linda Hamilton. PG-13, 93 min. (JR)… Read more »
A live-action version of the MTV animated series, set in the postapocalyptic year 2415. I couldn’t get very involved in the plot, but this is fairly enjoyable camp, and the snazzy visual design includes sets that evoke Antonio Gaudi and southern California bunker architecture. There’s also the grand spectacle of Charlize Theron in a cat suit as the title character, tangling with all sorts of other divas (male and female, black and white) while mussing up her perfect hairdo only slightly toward the end. Karyn Kusama (Girlfight) directed; with Marton Csokas, Sophie Okonedo, Frances McDormand, and Pete Postlethwaite (in the Alec Guinness part). PG-13, 93 min. (JR)… Read more »
French film director (and philosophy professor) Eugene Green hails from New York, but you’d never guess it from the gentle Bressonian drifts of his style and the curious ways his actors address the camera. In his three features to date he’s moved from a Flaubert story (Every Night, 2001) to a medieval fairy tale (The Living World, 2003) to this tale (2004) set around the title bridge in Paris, interweaving the stories of a drifting, suicidal literature student (Adrian Michaux) and a classically trained singer (Natasha Regnier). The mannerist mood verges on deadpan parody, yet this is far from cynical or unfelt, and the music is potent. With Denis Podalydes and Olivier Gourmet. In French with subtitles. 126 min. (JR)… Read more »
This first feature by film and jazz critic Thierry Jousse, a former editor of Cahiers du Cinema, seems as obsessed with sound as its hero, a composer and performer of electronic music (Laurent Lucas) who’s preparing an album with a musician friend (Noel Akchot… Read more »