Daily Archives: December 22, 2006

Curse Of The Golden Flower

Ever since Zhang Yimou went digital with Hero (2002), his color coding and sense of spectacle have been devalued by a certain dehumanizing process; this historical adventure proves he still has an eye for striking images, but his formalism brings steadily diminishing returns, especially when it involves crowds of insectlike warriors. Adapted from a 1930s play, this stars Gong Li (at her most tremulous and sweaty) and Chow Yun-fat (miscast) as an empress and emperor of the Tung dynasty, but not even they can make much of its tragic story seething with decadent palace intrigues. The movie has plenty to engage one’s interest but little to sustain it. In Mandarin with subtitles. R, 114 min. (JR)… Read more »

Le Pere Noel Est Une Ordure

Political incorrectness toward Christmas, Christian charity, and gender-bending informs this lively 1982 farce about workers at a suicide hotline colliding with various desperate eccentrics on Christmas Eve. Director Jean-Marie Poire wrote the script in collaboration with most of the major actorsJosiane Balasko, Marie-Anne Chazel, Christian Clavier, Gerard Jugnot, Thierry Lhermitte, and Bruno Moynotand their desire to be irreverent (the title translates as Santa Claus Is a Bastard) gets a mite monotonous. In French with subtitles. 88 min. (JR)… Read more »

Freedom’s Fury

This absorbing documentary by Colin Keith Gray and Megan Raney Aarons is a classic sports story about the great Hungarian water polo team that stomped the Soviets at the 1956 Olympics, avenging the recent counterrevolutionary crackdown in Hungary. But it’s also an exemplary and multifaceted history of Hungary since the Nazi occupation. The interviews with former Hungarian and Soviet players are pungent, and Nikita Khrushchev’s son Sergei contributes some interesting comments about his father’s ambivalence toward Hungary during this period. In English and subtitled Hungarian and Russian. 90 min. (JR)… Read more »

The Calm

A strong performance by Jerzy Stuhr is the main reason to see this 1976 Krzysztof Kieslowski feature, also known as Peace and Quiet. Stuhr plays an ex-con who starts over in a new city with a construction job, finds another fiancee, and eventually must choose between his striking coworkers and the boss who’s blackmailing him. Banned in Poland until 1980, the year Solidarity was founded, this is relatively insular compared with Kieslowski’s later, better-known features, but Stuhr manages to carry it. In Polish with subtitles. 82 min. (JR)… Read more »

You Better Watch Out

Lewis Jackson directed this offbeat 1980 thriller about a murderer (Brandon Maggart) who dresses as Santa. Watch the DVD instead and you can hear Jackson discussing it at length with John Waters, one of its biggest fans. 100 min. (JR)… Read more »

No End

There’s no question that Krzysztof Kieslowski’s cowriter Krzysztof Piesiewicz had a decisive impact on The Decalogue and Three Colors, and this 1984 feature, their first collaboration, often seems like a trial run for Blue. A young lawyer (Jerzy Radziwilowicz, known for his work with Wajda, Godard, and Rivette) dies in 1982, when Poland is under martial law, and his death affects not only his widow (Grazyna Szapolowska) but the case against a young strike leader whose defense has been taken up by the lawyer’s mentor (Aleksander Bardini). Despite an awkward and unnecessary narrative frame involving the lawyer’s ghost, this is terse, suggestive, and pungent, with juicy performances by Bardini and Szapolowska. In Polish with subtitles. 107 min. (JR)… Read more »