From the July 14, 1989 Chicago Reader. –J.R.
MACAO, OR BEYOND THE SEA
*** (A must-see)
Directed by Clemens Klopfenstein
Written by Klopfenstein, Wolfram Groddeck, and Felix Tissi
With Max Ruedlinger, Christine Lauterburg, Hans-Dieter Jendreyko, Shirley Wong, and Che Tin Hong.
1. Some part of me feels an enormous gratitude for movies that I don’t fully understand. The compulsive legibility of commercial movies — designed to be synopsized in three or four sentences, promoted in one or two catchphrases, represented in a short trailer, consumed in a single gulp — has a tendency over the long haul to give clarity a bad name; Hollywood’s form of lucidity usually rules out feelings, moods, and ideas that can’t be encapsulated so simply. People are fond of comparing movies to dreams, but when was the last time you had a dream that could be synopsized as effortlessly as a Hollywood movie?
Part of the allure of dreams is their mystery — not the kind of mystery that a Marlowe or a Freud could solve, which reduces the unknown to the status of a riddle, but the larger kind of mystery, whose uncanniness is a matter of aura and atmosphere, a cosmic question mark that can’t be resolved by plot contrivances or symbolic substitutions.… Read more »
My Fall 2018 column for Cinema Scope. — J.R.
Paul Verhoeven gives exceptionally good audio commentary, especially on the Kino Lorber Blu-ray of Spetters (1980), a powerful feature about teenage motocross racers in a small Dutch town that I’ve just seen for the first time. Speaking in English, Verhoeven tells us a good deal about Dutch culture and life at the time his film was made; his own ideological motivations (such as his desire to depict accurately the behaviour of his young working-class characters) and personal contributions to the script (especially, but not exclusively, those relating to his early involvement with Pentecostal Christianity); his literary influences (in particular, the role played by Céline in conceptualizing the final sequence) and his strategies as a director (including the use of his own dog, who also turns up in The Fourth Man ); his relations with his producer, his locations in and around Rotterdam, his cast and how he directed them; the differences between shooting in Holland and shooting in the US; the filming of stunts; his tricky dealings with Dutch government representatives to avoid censorship (which involved lying and subterfuge); the film’s disastrous initial critical reception, which had a lot to do with Verhoeven subsequently moving to Hollywood; and a great deal more.… Read more »