From the Chicago Reader (January 12, 2007). — J.R.
Letters from Iwo Jima ****
directed by Clint Eastwood
written by Iris Yamashita and Paul Haggis
with Ken Watanabe, Kazunari Ninomiya, Tsuyoshi Ihara, Ryo Kase, Hiroshi Watanabe, and Takumi Bando
The Dead Girl ***
directed and written by Karen Moncrieff
with Toni Colette, Rose Byrne, Mary Beth Hurt, Marcia Gay Harden, Brittany Murphy, Kerry Washington, Giovanni Ribisi, Piper Laurie, James Franco, Mary Steenburgen, Bruce Davison, Nick Searcy, and Josh Brolin
Given my usual aversion to war and slasher movies, I wasn’t instantly won over by either Letters From Iwo Jima or The Dead Girl. Both films display a fundamental decency and seriousness from the outset, but both are unrelievedly grim and full of booby traps. (At press time I was told that The Dead Girl may not open for another week or so.)
Letters From Iwo Jima, directed by Clint Eastwood, one of the finest directors alive, looks at the World War II battle of his recent Flags of Our Fathers from a Japanese perspective. Letters From Iwo Jima opened in Japan around the same time its counterpart opened here, evidence of the nobility of his intention to address the people of both countries, not just us.… Read more »
From the Chicago Reader (November 12, 1999). — J.R.
Rating *** A must see
Directed and written by Catherine Breillat
With Caroline Ducey, Sagamore Stevenin, Rocco Siffredi, and Francois Berleand.
I’ve never put much stock in my powers of prophecy, but it seems I was more off the mark than usual nine months ago when I emerged from the world premiere of Catherine Breillat’s Romance, in Rotterdam, thinking it would create a sensation if it reached the U.S. I somehow forgot that most movie sensations are the fabrications of publicists. Audiences can create sensations – The Blair Witch Project proves that — but reviewers, who are usually closer to publicists than to audiences, are often the last people to notice. So maybe Breillat’s seventh feature did cause a sensation with audiences when it opened in New York several weeks ago, but if so, I don’t think it’s been reported.
Nine months ago I decided that Romance was a pretty reactionary movie for France — mainly because of an offscreen statement made by the heroine near the end (“They say a woman isn’t a woman until she’s a mother; it’s true”). But I still thought it might be seen as progressive in America, especially because its rare confluence of cinematic taste, literary intelligence, and hard-core sex might undercut the crippling puritanism of our movie codes, which usually equate eroticism with porn, sleaze, and stupidity rather than, say, art, health, and intelligence.… Read more »