Daily Archives: May 17, 2017

War of the Poses (OLEANNA)

From the November 11, 1994 Chicago Reader. — J.R.

*** OLEANNA

(A must-see)

Directed and written by David Mamet

With William H. Macy and Debra Eisenstadt.

David Mamet’s four features to date, none of them realistic, are all concerned to a greater or lesser extent with con games. Ultimately what one thinks of any of them has a lot to do with which side of the con one winds up on — which proves to be a matter of how one relates to the style as well as the content. Language is the major instrument of both seduction and deception in these films, and Mamet’s stylized use of it, playing on its ellipses and ambiguities as well as its more abstract and musical qualities, often deceives and seduces the audience. So how one responds to these characters has a lot to do with how one reacts to these language games.

To my mind, House of Games and the first half of Things Change are seductive (if brittle) fantasies about the allure and danger of spinning seductive fantasies; the second half of Things Change and Homicide are outsized sentimental bluffs. All three films star Joe Mantegna, are about criminals, and bear some relation to Hollywood genres; but where one places one’s trust and emotional allegiances is different in each case.… Read more »

Don’t Judge a Film by Its Venue [BLACK BOOK & OFFSIDE]

From the Chicago Reader (April 20, 2007).  The severe sentencing of Jafar Panahi, the director of Offside, after this article was published has made his remarkable (and earlier) filmmaking more vital and relevant than ever. — J.R.


BLACK BOOK ****

DIRECTED BY PAUL VERHOEVEN

WRITTEN BY GERARD SOETEMAN AND VERHOEVEN

WITH CARICE VAN HOUTEN, SEBASTIAN KOCH, THOM HOFFMAN, HALINA REIJN, WALDEMAR KOBUS, AND DEREK DE LINT

OFFSIDE ****

DIRECTED BY JAFAR PANAHI

WRITTEN BY PANAHI AND SHADMEHR RASTIN

WITH SIMA MOBARAK SHAHI, SAFAR SAMANDAR, SHAYESTEH IRANI, M. KHEYRABADI, and IDA SADEGHI

The recent successes of such films as Pan’s Labyrinth, Volver, and The Lives of Others at multiplexes is a welcome sign that art-house ghettos aren’t the only places for foreign-language films anymore. Art houses, like multiplexes, tend to foster certain expectations about the movies we go to see in them, and sometimes we miss out on what a film has to offer as a consequence. Paul Verhoeven’s big-budget drama Black Book, which opened last week at the Music Box and is now also playing at some more commercial venues, and Jafar Panahi’s low-budget comedy Offside, which opens this week at the Music Box, both confound expectations.… Read more »