Daily Archives: November 16, 2016

A Breakthrough And A Throwback

From the September 3, 1999 Chicago Reader. It seems worth reposting because, I’m happy to report, both these films are now available on DVD, although All the Little Animals is rather pricey. — J.R.

Mr. Zhao

Rating *** A must see

Directed by Lu Yue

Written by Shu Ping

With Shi Jingming, Zhang Zhihua, Chen Yinan, and Jiang Wenli.

All The Little Animals

Rating *** A must see

Directed by Jeremy Thomas

Written by Eski Thomas

With John Hurt, Christian Bale, Daniel Benzali, James Faulkner, and John O’Toole.

Two of the best movies of 1998 are opening in Chicago this week — which makes them two of the best movies of 1999 — but the odds of either making much of a splash are just about nil. For one thing, they don’t appear to have opened previously anywhere else in the U.S., ruling out any advance buzz. For another, the budget for publicity in both cases appears to be about 15 cents; by contrast, the advertising budget for Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me was between $35 million and $40 million, not counting the Time Warner tie-ins (the entire production budget was $33 million). As a consequence, information about both films is hard to come by — I can’t even determine whether the screenwriter of Mr.Read more »

Home movie of homelessness (Review of REMINISCENCES OF A JOURNEY TO LITHUANIA)

One of my first published reviews, which appeared in the November 2, 1972 issue of The Village Voice, this was commissioned by Andrew Sarris, bless him. I was always grateful for this opportunity to write about a film that I love, and that I continue to cherish. — J.R.

Jonas Mekas’s Reminiscences of a Journey to Lithuania, a film dedicated “to all the displaced people in the world,” has itself become the object of some displacement. Screened jointly with Adolfas Mekas and Pola Chapelle’s Going Home at the New York Film Festival, defined in the program as a non-narrative film and by its author as a home movie, it has become a casual victim of “convenient” programing and somewhat deceptive labels. Whatever “non-narrative” and “home movie” mean — and I think the latter describes Going Home pretty accurately — they are less than helpful in describing the achievement of what must be called Jonas Mekas’s testament. If they must be understood, let it be understood that Reminiscences is a home movie about homelessness, a non-narrative film with one of the most beautifully constructed and articulated narrative lines in autobiographical cinema.

Going Home, a rambling collection of travel photos and family poses, resembles the jazzy surfaces of Hallelujah the Hills, joke titles and all, and registers not unlike a boastful list of possessions (the secret metaphysic behind every family album): this is my garden, my Moscow, my family, my Lithuania.… Read more »

The Two Faces of Commerce

From The Soho News (July 8, 1981). From today’s vantage point (fall 2016), I think I was much too needlessly unkind here to Blake Edwards, not to mention Paul Schrader. -– J.R.

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Disney Animation and Animators

Whitney Museum of American Art.

through September 6

S.O.B.

Written and directed by Blake Edwards

Postmodernism is a jive-ass, commercially-minded, art-related movement which seems to be guided by three central tenets or market strategies” (1) if it works, it’s art; (2) if it fails, it’s politics; (3) if it sells, it works. It also betrays an overall yearning aspiration to reconcile radically opposed positions, like Karl Marx and Ayn Rand. (If you had to boil it down to a single tenet, perhaps this would be Total Gross Precedes Essence, with Existence left out of the formula.)

The spiritual home and stomping ground of postmodernism is Southern California, although a lot of its promotional rhetoric seems to get pumped through New York channels. Its principal aim often appears to be to destroy the individual and combined existential integrity of both art and politics by turning them into the two faces of commerce, this making them “available” (at a price) to everyone. Postmodernism does, indeed, make a great deal possible today, It also makes a great deal literally unthinkable — – which sometimes gives me the creeps.… Read more »