If I’d had to depend entirely on the quality and interest of the films released in any given week, I probably wouldn’t have remained a movie reviewer for several decades. Luckily, I often found ways of writing about other topics, using the film or films being released as excuses. This was especially true during my extended stint of writing for Soho News almost every week for about about a year and a half (1979-1981), reviewing books (mainly fiction and literary criticism) as well as movies, and during my more than twenty years of writing about films for the Chicago Reader, I usually had the same freedom, at least as long as I had a fair amount of length at my disposal. Perhaps the most obvious example of this freedom at Soho News was the following piece about Mad that I did in 1980, for the July 16 issue, occasioned by a very forgettable comedy released that week. — J.R..
A Fond Madness
Though the ads for the crude, uneven Up the Academy are at some pains to link the movie to Mad — a publication (first a comic book, then a magazine) –- now in its 28th year, the connection clearly has more to do with packaging than with contents.… Read more »
How much of the pain of Sadaf Foroughi’s first feature — winner of one of my Fipresci jury’s two prizes at the Toronto International Film Festival, a film from Iran — is the pain of being a teenager, and how much is it being a teenager at a particular place and time? How much is personal and how much is institutional, familial, cultural, social, political, architectural?
These are the questions raised by Foroughi’s exquisite, unorthodox framings and reframings of her characters, each one posing a separate inquiry. [9-20-17]
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The outrage of the mainstream press in Cannes about Godard’s Film Socialisme was quite predictable. In his Scanners, Jim Emerson has even gone to the trouble of compiling excerpts from 15 New York Times reviews of Godard’s films, spread out over half a century and all offering variations on the same complaint: “[approaching] the films themselves as though they are puzzles designed to frustrate (and to eventually be ‘solved’), then [blaming] Godard for not doing a better job of solving them himself because they’re too hard.” And it was apparent even to me, witnessing everything from Chicago, that this anger was only intensified by the minimalist pidgin-English subtitles and Godard’s last-minute cancellation of his press conference. I was reminded of the near-riot once occasioned by a screening of his Un Film comme les autres (perhaps the emptiest and the most talkative of all of Godard’s films to date), in New York’s Lincoln Center in 1968, thanks in part to an attempt at adding an English voiceover on the spot that made the French and English equally incomprehensible. Which suggests that Godard’s aesthetic and ideological provocations often help to clear the way for still other sources of anger that may or may not be related to them.… Read more »