Daily Archives: October 13, 2006

Infamous

Much of the liveliness of Capote (2005) derived from the built-in fascination of following Truman Capote from Manhattan high society to rural Kansas while he wrote his true-crime thriller In Cold Blood. This feature by writer-director Douglas McGrath, made around the same time as Capote but only released this year, covers the same subject with a provocatively different tone, starting out as a flip comedy and making more of an issue of Capote’s homosexuality. Its putative source is Truman Capote (1997), George Plimpton’s nonbook of gossipy quotes, and much of the story seems invented, especially the tragic relationship between Capote (Toby Jones) and Perry Smith (Daniel Craig, excellent). More ambitious than Capote yet wildly uneven, this finally has too many competing agendas, though it certainly held my interest. With Peter Bogdanovich (as Bennett Cerf), Sandra Bullock (as Harper Lee), Jeff Daniels, Sigourney Weaver, and Hope Davis. R, 110 min.… Read more »

Iraq In Fragments

Documentary filmmaker James Longley (Gaza Strip) has a flair for cinematography and editing and a poetic sensibility that informs both these talents. He’s also responsible for this film’s music. But the most significant credits for this examination of Iraqi Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds may be the dozen translators listed. (The future of Iraq will be in three parts, says one Kurd. How can you cut a country into three parts? asks another.) Much as Emile de Antonio’s neglected In the Year of the Pig (1968) may be the only major documentary about Vietnam that actually considers the Vietnamese, this film allows the people of Iraq to speak, and what they say is fascinating throughout. In Kurdish and Arabic with subtitles. 94 min. (JR)… Read more »

Come Early Morning

Joey Lauren Adams, who played the bisexual heroine in Chasing Amy, writes and directs her first feature, which I hope won’t be her last. A personal and thoughtful look at her southern Baptist background, it centers on a promiscuous thirtysomething barfly (Ashley Judd) trying to negotiate various parts of her life. The plot points verge on the familiar and obvious, but Adams’s work with the actors (especially Judd and among the others Jeffrey Donovan, Diane Ladd, Tim Blake Nelson, and Scott Wilson) is so resourceful and focused that she makes them shine. R, 97 min. (JR)… Read more »

Venus

Peter O’Toole stars as a septuagenarian British actor pursuing a mainly chaste romance with the unschooled 20-year-old grandniece (Jodie Whittaker) of one of his cronies (Leslie Phillips). Directed by Roger Michell (Persuasion) from a script by Hanif Kureishi (My Beautiful Laundrette), this comedy drama is an exercise in self-indulgence for O’Toole, but an enjoyable and touching one. Vanessa Redgrave livens things up briefly as O’Toole’s ex-wife, but this is basically about the complex negotiations, adjustments, and exchanges between the actor and the young woman, and more generally a meditation on growing old gracefully. R, 94 min. (JR)… Read more »

Syndromes And A Century

The unpredictable and provocative Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Tropical Malady) offers a mysterious and beautiful experimental feature (2006) based on memories of his parents, who were both doctors. It’s divided into two parts, both set in the present, with many rhyme effects between them. The first, set in and around a rural clinic, centers on his mother; the second, set in the vicinity of a Bangkok hospital, focuses on his father, though it’s a kind of quizzical remake of the first and both characters appear in each section. There’s nothing here that resembles narrative urgency, but this is a quiet masterpiece, delicate and full of wonder. In Thai with subtitles. 105 min. (JR)… Read more »

The Bridge

According to this documentary, 24 people jumped to their death from San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge in 2004. Eric Steel contrived to film as many of them as possible, and the schedule for the Chicago International Film Festival stated that he captured 23 successful suicides and one survivor. He also interviews many suffering friends and relatives. This is a new form of obscenity that might be called suicide porn. It’s not just the voyeuristic surveillance that’s obscene, but the use of suicide footage as counterpoint to other stories as they’re told. Steel shows no special insight into the subject, though even that couldn’t justify such hideousness. 93 min. (JR)… Read more »

Invisible Waves

The great countercultural novelist Rudolph Wurlitzer has talked of writing a Buddhist thriller in which the action gets progressively slower. There’s some of that in this movie, Thai maestro Pen-ek Ratanaruang’s fifth feature, which moves from Macao to Thailand. Though this time the director doesn’t take a script credit, he returns to the genre basics of his first two films, Fun Bar Karaoke (1997) and 6ixtynin9 (1999), to give us a moody, philosophically downbeat, cryptically stylish thriller about a Japanese hit man (Tadanobu Asano) assigned to kill his own lover (and his boss’s girlfriend). The lush cinematography is by the great Christopher Doyle. In English and subtitled Thai, Japanese, and Korean. 115 min. (JR)… Read more »

Films By Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Tropical Malady, Blissfully Yours), who studied at the School of the Art Institute, ranks as one of the most creative and unpredictable film artists working anywhere. With a few notable exceptions, all his work is experimental, though these seven lovely shorts, made between 1994 and 2003, are experimental in the classic sense of being painterly, musical, and nonnarrative. The stories that do surface come from such sources as a comic book (Malee and the Boy), a radio play (Like the Relentless Fury of the Pounding Waves), and an offscreen conversation (Thirdworld). (JR)… Read more »

Man Of The Year

This story about a TV comedian (Robin Williams) who’s elected president due to a faulty new computerized voting machine was written and directed by Barry Levinson, but it’s no Wag the Dog and not even a satire, political or otherwise. It’s not exactly a love story either, although the president-elect falls for the woman (Laura Linney) who’s discovered the mechanical error. Nor is it a thriller, despite some slam-bang skulduggery involving a corporate villain (Jeff Goldblum), or a buddy film, despite the warmth between the comic and his manager (Christopher Walken). Mainly it’s a shambles, though for once Williams gets to do what he’s best at (his stand-up shtick), and the absurd story, no matter how carelessly assembled, keeps moving. With Lewis Black. PG-13, 102 min. (JR)… Read more »

Lies About Lying (INFAMOUS)

From the Chicago Reader (October 13, 2006). — J.R.

Infamous **

Directed and written by Douglas McGrath

With Toby Jones, Daniel Craig, Sandra Bullock, Jeff Daniels, Peter Bogdanovich, Sigourney Weaver, and Hope Davis

Two recent features about Truman Capote, coincidentally made around the same time, concentrate on Capote’s work on his true-crime best seller In Cold Blood, about the slaying of a family in rural Kansas. Both suggest that Capote’s life and career were destroyed by the emotional strain of researching and writing that book, yet they’re fascinatingly different in what they try to do and in how they depict their subject. Capote – which professes to be based on Gerald Clarke’s standard biography of the same title — came out a year ago and won its lead actor, Philip Seymour Hoffman, an Oscar. Infamous – which claims to be based on George Plimpton’s Truman Capote, a collection of gossipy sound-bites assembled in the same manner as his “oral histories” about Edie Sedgwick and Robert F. Kennedy — was released a year after it was completed to avoid comparisons with Capote. Now that it’s out, comparisons are in order — and not all of them are to Capote‘s advantage.… Read more »