Daily Archives: May 10, 2018

Slum Chums [LIFE STINKS]

I’ve been getting a lot of pleasure lately from the new Blu-Ray Mel Brooks box set, especially in catching up with the two Brooks features I hadn’t seen before, The Twelve Chairs (1970) and Silent Movie (1976). The only gaping absence for me in this deluxe collection isn’t so much The Producers (1968), his first feature, and certainly not his most recent and weakest, Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995), but Life Stinks (1991), which in retrospect I may have underrated — and which Kino Lorber is bringing out this July. Which is largely why I’m resurrecting my mixed review of it. This originally appeared in the Chicago Reader’s August 2, 1991 issue. — J.R.

LIFE STINKS

** (Worth seeing)

Directed by Mel Brooks

Written by Brooks, Ron Clark, Rudy De Luca, and Steve Haberman

With Mel Brooks, Lesley Ann Warren, Jeffrey Tambor, Stuart Pankin, Howard Morris, and Rudy De Luca.

“Tragedy is if I cut my finger. . . . Comedy is if you walk into an open sewer and die.” —Mel Brooks

For a long time now Mel Brooks has been one of my guilty pleasures. It’s difficult to refute the protestations of friends and colleagues about the general feebleness of History of the World–Part I and Spaceballs — his previous two features as writer-director, and the only ones that appeared in the 80s — but there are moments in both films that I deeply treasure, not so much as evidence of a writer’s, director’s, or performer’s craft, but rather as moments that make me laugh hard and long and make me feel good afterward.… Read more »

Declarations of Independents: Marry Royalty and Escape

From The Soho News (May 6, 1981). — J.R.

Impostors

Just a Gigolo

Black and White Like Day and Night

Film Still

“All bourgeois dreams end the same way. Marry royalty and escape.” — Chuckie (Charles Ludlam) in Impostors

April 20: It’s a pity that  Mark Rappaport: The TV Spinoff, which Channel 13 revives shortly after midnight, only a day before I attend a press show of Rappaport’s Impostors (playing at the Art through Tuesday), won’t be seen by everyone who’s encountering this filmmaker’s original, unsettling work for the first time. As a very witty précis of what watching (and financing and making) his movies can be like, I doubt it could be much improved upon. At the outset, when Rappaport is trying out different kinds of music with different movie stills — just a formal variation, really, of his subsequent tryouts with different costumes, backdrops, front-projections, plots, characters, clips, and raps about his movies — he’s already setting up the paradoxical parameters of his glamorously homemade cinema.

It’s a place where the writer-director and his resourceful actors and crew are all studiously working their asses off to furnish the audience with a kind of do-it-yourself melodrama kit, at once firmly overdetermined and subtly undermined — full of hysteria and intrigue, signifying everything.

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