Daily Archives: November 26, 2018

Back in Style (Bertolucci’s BESIEGED)

From the June 11, 1999 Chicago Reader. — J.R.

Besieged

Rating **** Masterpiece

Directed by Bernardo Bertolucci

Written by Bertolucci and Clare Peploe

With Thandie Newton, David Thewlis, and Claudio Santamaria.

By Jonathan Rosenbaum

Many times over the past three decades I’ve been close to giving up on Bernardo Bertolucci. The rapturous lift of his second feature, Before the Revolution (1964), promised more than he seemed prepared to deliver with the eclectic Partner (1968). Yet it was The Spider’s Stratagem (1970) rather than The Conformist (made just afterward and released the same year) that renewed my faith in his talent. Both movies, like Before the Revolution and Partner, were the flamboyant expressions of a guilt-ridden leftist, a spoiled rich kid with a baroque imagination and a social conscience that yielded dark and decadent ideas about privilege and guiltless fancies about sex. Where they differed for me was in the degree to which The Conformist succumbed to fashionable embroidery, a stylishness that took the place of style.

It was the relatively big budget The Conformist, an adaptation of an Alberto Moravia novel, that made Bertolucci’s name in the world market and so influenced American movies that Coppola’s Godfather trilogy would have been inconceivable without it.… Read more »

Poltergeist III

From the Chicago Reader (June 1, 1988). — J.R.

poltergeist-3

In this strictly routine second sequel to Poltergeist, directed by Gary Sherman from a script by Sherman and Brian Taggert, Carol Anne (Heather O’Rourke) is now happily living in Chicago with her uncle Bruce (Tom Skerritt), aunt Pat (Nancy Allen), and cousin Donna (Lara Flynn Boyle). But during a session at school with a therapist (Richard Fire) something nasty starts to happen when she looks in a mirror. Most of the action is confined to a single brand-new skyscraper, and the moves are both standard and predictable: periodic jolts from the other world that seem almost arbitrarily spliced into the action, setting up the rational-minded therapist as the major fall guy, and never paying much mind to plot or coherence, meanwhile cribbing from everything in sight (The Exorcist, The Shining, the first two Poltergeists). (JR)

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The Exorcist III

From the Chicago Reader (August 1, 1990). — J.R.

Exorcist3

An official sequel to the original story — that is, a movie that begins where The Exorcist, rather than Exorcist II: The Heretic, left off. William Peter Blatty, author of the original novel and its screen adaptation, wrote and directed this 1990 feature, adapting his own novel Legion, and while he apparently lacks the means to make this work at the level of its predecessor — there’s too much mumbo jumbo in the dialogue and not enough continuity in the story — his decision to hold back on visible gore and depend mainly on camera and actors (especially Brad Dourif as a mental patient possessed by Satan) to suggest the full range of his horrors frequently pays off. And even when it doesn’t work, the film is never boring. The cast also includes George C. Scott, Ed Flanders (particularly good as a likable priest), Jason Miller, Scott Wilson, Nicol Williamson, Nancy Fish, Lee Richardson, Viveca Lindfors, Zohra Lampert, and Barbara Baxley; Gerry Fisher is the cinematographer. (JR)

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