Daily Archives: July 6, 2007

Chung Kuo China

Ironically, the feeling of almost random drift that periodically recurs in Michelangelo Antonioni’s filmsbringing mysterious density and poetry to his narratives even when the source of this drift appears to be touristicbecomes disastrous when it forms the shaky basis for his only extended documentary. His three-part 1972 miniseries about China, attacked by the Chinese government at the time for both defensible and indefensible reasons, looks rather formless today because it lacks a coherent agenda. The best sequence, in part one, shows a successful cesarean section performed on a cheerful, conscious woman, with acupuncture used as the sole anesthetic; the one with least point, in part three, shows acrobats and jugglers performing onstage. Made at the onset of what now seems like Antonioni’s artistic decline, this documentary can’t hold a candle to Joris Ivens and Marceline Loridan-Ivens’s less politically skeptical but more focused How Yukong Moved the Mountains (1976). In Italian with subtitles. 217 min. (JR)… Read more »

Lady Chatterley

D.H. Lawrence wrote three versions of the novel that we know as Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Pascale Ferran adapts the second version, John Thomas and Lady Jane (the pet names of Lady Chatterley and her gamekeeper lover for their sex organs) into a masterful 168-minute piece of storytelling (2006) that never ceases to be gripping in spite of its measured pace. Ferran proves that a distinction between sensual and sexual art is worth making. There are also class issues: the heroine (Marina Hands) is happily married to an invalid, impotent war veteran (Hippolyte Girardot) who signals his acceptance of someone else from the same class fathering his heir. But since it’s his gamekeeper (Jean-Louis Coulloc’h), the affair’s kept secret. Ferran’s sureness in charting every step in the couple’s discovery of each other never falters; when they eventually find the opportunity to remove their clothes before having sex, it’s a major achievement, and celebrated as such. In French with subtitles. a Music Box. –Jonathan Rosenbaum … Read more »