From the Chicago Reader (March 27, 2000). — J.R.
A very curious and eclectic piece of work — fresh even when it’s awkward — that’s built around an unsolved mystery, like Picnic at Hanging Rock. Adapted from a Jeffrey Eugenides novel by director Sofia Coppola, and set in small-town Michigan a quarter of a century ago, it focuses on five teenage sisters as perceived by some of their male classmates; James Woods and Kathleen Turner play the girls’ parents and Giovanni Ribisi narrates. With Kirsten Dunst, Hanna R. Hall, Chelsea Swain, A.J. Cook, Leslie Hayman, Josh Hartnett, Danny DeVito, and Scott Glenn. 96 min. (JR)
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Written in mid-February 2013 for the publication of the Chinese edition of James Naremore’s Acting in the Cinema, which was scheduled for publication in China in 2014, although I’m not sure whether it’s ever been published there. (I still haven’t been paid for it.) This is the second Introduction I’ve written for a Chinese translation of a Naremore book; my previous one was for More Than Night: Film Noir in its Contexts. — J.R.
In film criticism, acting tends to be the most neglected single aspect of cinema — one that’s especially difficult to describe and also easy to confuse with other skills and effects in filmmaking, to cite only two of the reasons for its neglect. Often not knowing whose creativity and whose creative decisions are the most relevant, we easily become confounded over issues of intentionality, agency, credit, and defining precisely what it is that we’re responding to, which becomes all the more difficult due to the mythological auras that surround famous actors.The few times that I’ve tried to write about actors myself in any detail, such as Kim Novak, Marilyn Monroe, Eric von Stroheim, and Charlie Chaplin, I’ve concentrated mainly on those auras, and in the case of the latter two, I’ve even found it hard to separate their acting from their writing and directing.… Read more »
The following essay was both commissioned and written in early June 2009. My thanks to the Chinese translator Zhanxiong Xu for giving me permission to publish the original English version here.
My subsequent Introduction to the Chinese edition of another book by James Naremore, Acting in the Cinema — written in February 2013, and currently scheduled to be published in Chinese in 2014 — is available here. I’m also pleased to announce that a Chinese translation and edition of one of my own books, Movie Wars: How Hollywood and the Media Limit What Films We Can See, is currently in the works. — J.R.
Introduction to the Chinese Edition of More Than Night: Film Noir in its Contexts
by Jonathan Rosenbaum
“The Chinese don’t accord much importance to things of the past,” Maggie Cheung maintained in an interview with a French magazine roughly a decade ago (1), “whether it’s films, heritage, or even clothes or furniture. In Asia nothing is preserved, turning towards the past is regarded as stupid, aberrant.”
Interestingly, this statement helps to explain why so many of the most important Chinese films, at least for me, are concerned with the discovery of history, and represent various attempts to reclaim a lost past.… Read more »
From the August 29, 2003 Chicago Reader. — J.R.
The Virgin Suicides (2000) revealed writer-director Sofia Coppola to be a genuine original, and now that she’s working with her own material the freshness of her vision is even more apparent. This second feature traces the brief romantic friendship between a jaded movie star and family man (Bill Murray), who’s in Tokyo shooting a whiskey commercial, and a bored young newlywed less than half his age (Scarlett Johansson), who’s waiting for her photographer husband (Giovanni Ribisi) to return from a trip. Coppola does a fair job of capturing the fish-tank ambience of nocturnal, upscale Tokyo and showing how it feels to be a stranger in that world, and an excellent job of getting the most from her lead actors. Unfortunately, I’m not sure she accomplishes anything else. R, 105 min. (JR)
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