From the Chicago Reader (April 1, 1995). — J.R.
Linda Fiorentino proudly and impressively mounts the throne of bitch noir goddess in this 1994 feature directed by John Dahl (Red Rock West) from a Steve Barancik script. There’s really not much to keep the picture going apart from her unbridled ruthlessness, but there’s plenty of fun to be found in that delectation alone. After goading her husband to pull off a dangerous drug deal and then running off with the loot, leaving him to the mercies of a deadly loan shark, she picks up another unsuspecting (if ambitious) fall guy in a small-town bar and schemes some more. Unlike the classic noirs, this is grounded in neither a recognizable social reality nor a metaphysical sense of doom — just a lot of sexy attitude, humping, and heavy breathing. But it’s an entertaining and caustically humorous thriller if you like that sort of thing. With Bill Pullman, Bill Nunn, Peter Berg, and the ever-reliable J.T. Walsh. 110 min. (JR)
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Eric Rohmer died in early 2010 at the age of 89. (See Dave Kehr’s very fine obituary in the New York Times.) Although my support for his work was often guarded, I hope that I did justice to his importance in this August 20, 1999 piece for the Chicago Reader.
I was distressed more recently to read A.O. Scott assert about Rohmer, in an article about him in the New York Times, that “some aspects of late-20th-century life -– most notably, politics –- were absent from his palette”. This immediately made me think about L’arbre, le maire et la médiathèque (1993), one of Rohmer’s best and most neglected features, although, as Kent Jones subsequently noted on Dave Kehr’s blog, other Rohmer films with (direct or indirect) political content could also be noted. As usual, it appears that Scott is doing what many readers want from the Times‘ film writers: to assure them that their ignorance about certain matters is an “educated” ignorance, even if it isn’t. –J.R. [1/13/10]
Autumn Tale Rating *** A must-see
Directed and written by Eric Rohmer
With Marie Rivière, Béatrice Romand, Alain Libolt, Didier Sandre, Alexia Portal, Stéphane Darmon, and Aurélia Alcaïs.… Read more »
Below is my Foreword to The Medieval Hero on Screen: Representations from Beowulf to Buffy (McFarland, 2004), a collection edited by Martha W. Driver and Sid Ray, minus a few editorial tweaks and abridgements. — J.R.
It’s a curious fact, at least to me, that I’m writing a forword to this book, even a short one. I’m neither a medievalist nor a historian; I haven’t seen many of the films discussed, and, perhaps because I spend much of my time reviewing films for a weekly newspaper, the Chicago Reader, I have seen but have mainly forgotten some of the others. As a professional film critic who occasionally gets invited to speak and teach at college campuses, I have the benefit of both close and long-range views of film history, and try to create some two-way traffic between these positions in my writing.
It has always been a handicap for film scholars that one can’t necessarily count on all the important works being widely accessible or even widely known. In the essays that follow, some of my favorite films with medieval themes and settings have only been briefly touched upon —- I’m thinking especially of Carl Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc and Eric Rohmer’s Perceval -— while others, including Fritz Lang’s magnificent two-part, five-hour Die Nibelungen (1924), and Les visiteurs du soir (1942), a haunting fantasy written by Jacques Prévert and Pierre Laroche and directed by Marcel Carné during the French Occupation, are not mentioned.… Read more »