From The Soho News (March 25, 1981). — J.R.
March 10: Permanent Vacation — a punk art film by Jim Jarmusch, with Chris Parker, visible in the Bleecker Street Cinema’s James Agee Room every weekend this month. A semi-promising beginning offers alternately deserted and busy city streets (crisply shot by Tom DiCillo), and a skinny existential drifter reflecting on the “newness” of rooms in his travels that fades away, replaced each time by dread: “The story is how I got from there to here — or maybe I should say here to here.”
The problem is, while trekking dutifully through enough architectural (and cultural) rubble to furnish at least a dozen other art movies, the movie mainly gets from there to nowhere, at a fairly leisurely crawl. Along the way are a few good ideas and jokes, most of them literary and underdeveloped (like affectless Beckett/beat conceits which evoke Wurlitzer’s Nog), one of them actorly (Frankie Faison), some of them musical (John Lurie of the Lounge Lizards). Chances are, if this is the sort of thing you like, you’ve already found your way there.
March 11: Marta Meszaros’ Nine Months, a Hungarian feature made in color five years ago, now on at the Cinema Studio 2. … Read more »
From the Chicago Reader (October 21, 1994). This is also reprinted in my collection Movies as Politics. — J.R.
*** ED WOOD
Directed by Tim Burton
Written by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski
With Johnny Depp, Martin Landau, Sarah Jessica Parker, Patricia Arquette, Jeffrey Jones, Bill Murray, Lisa Marie, George “The Animal” Steele, and Vincent D’Onofrio.
*** PULP FICTION
Directed and written by Quentin Tarantino
With John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman, Bruce Willis, Ving Rhames, Maria de Medeiros, Tim Roth, Amanda Plummer, Harvey Keitel, Eric Stoltz, Rosanna Arquette, Christopher Walken, and Tarantino.
[The media] ask those who know nothing to represent the ignorance of the public and, in so doing, to legitimize it.
– Serge Daney, Sight and Sound
If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story. — Orson Welles
In Vamps & Tramps, Camille Paglia’s latest collection of sound bites and press clips, one finds an extended account of her long-term obsession with Susan Sontag, including the following nugget: “She is literally being passed by a younger rival, and she’s not handling it, I’m afraid, very gracefully. . . . I am the Sontag of the 90s, there’s no doubt of it.” Her statements recall Wynton Marsalis’s compulsive self-positioning as Miles Davis’s rival/replacement — especially in the 80s, when Davis was still alive — as well as repeated assertions reviewers have made over the past several weeks that Quentin Tarantino is Jean-Luc Godard’s successor.… Read more »
From The Soho News (September 8, 1981); tweaked a little on June 6, 2010. — J.R.
Comin’ at Ya!
Written by Lloyd Battista, Wolf Lowenthal, and Gene Quintano
Directed by Fernando Baldi
Take This Job and Shove It
Written by Jeff Bernini and Barry Schneider
Based on the song by David Allan Coe
Directed by Gus Trikonis
Let’s face facts. When notions of what a “good” movie is shrinks to the level of TV deepthink like Kramer vs. Kramer or Prince of the City, it may be time to bring the glories of the big-screen “bad” movie back again — at least if what we’re out for is fun and adventure. Unlike the most dutiful Oscar winners, whose notions of the good and proper usually revolve around the relatively straight and narrow, or the collected works of a Bergman or a Fellini that are even more consistent about their consistency — beating you into submission as they gradually meld into one all-purpose archetype — certain bad movies can boast range, unpredictability, and singularly distinctive tastes.
Indeed, a fascinating and suggestive literature has been accumulating for some time about bad movies, ranging from Jack Smith on Maria Montez to Myron Meisel on Edgar G.… Read more »
This piece comes from the November 19, 1993 issue of the Chicago Reader. —J.R.
A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE
*** (A must-see)
Directed by Elia Kazan
Written by Tennessee Williams and Oscar Saul
With Vivien Leigh, Marlon Brando, Kim Hunter, and Karl Malden.
FLESH AND BONE
** (Worth seeing)
Directed and written by Steve Kloves
With Dennis Quaid, Meg Ryan, James Caan, and Gwyneth Paltrow.
Depending on whose figures you believe, the recently released “director’s cut” of A Streetcar Named Desire is either 4 percent or 8 percent longer than the version released in 1951. All the originally censored elements — lines of “racy” dialogue and shots of lustful expressions — have been restored, and the fact that this once-scandalous 126-minute movie is now accorded a PG rating indicates the progress we’ve made in some areas.
But if you think people are getting more of the movie now than they could 42 years ago, you’re mistaken. The running time is longer, but thanks to current movie-projection habits, close to 25 percent of every frame is missing at most screenings. The aspect ratio of the original movie — the relationship between the height and width of the frame — is 1:1.38, the standard ratio of all Hollywood movies in 1951.… Read more »