Daily Archives: February 4, 2019

Echoes of Old Hollywood [DESTINY & THE ADOPTED SON]

From the Chicago Reader, April 2, 1999. —J.R.

Destiny

Rating *** A must see

Directed by Youssef Chahine

Written by Chahine and Khaled Youssef

With Nour el-Cherif, Laila Eloui, Mahmoud Hemeida, Safia el-Emary, Mohamed Mounir, Khaled el-Nabaoui, Abdallah Mahmoud, and Ahmed Fouad-Selim.

The Adopted Son

Rating *** A must see

Directed by Aktan Abdikalikov

Written by Abdikalikov, Avtandil Adikulov, and Marat Sarulu

With Mirlan Abdikalikov, Albina Imasmeva, Adir Abilkassimov, Bakit Zilkieciev, and Mirlan Cinkozoev.

Apart from their exoticism, Youssef Chahine’s Destiny and Aktan Abdikalikov’s The Adopted Son don’t have much in common. Destiny is the 35th film by Chahine, a 73-year-old writer, director, and sometime actor who’s generally agreed to be the major figure in the history of Egyptian cinema. His subject here is Averroes (1126-1198), a dissident Spanish-Arab philosopher best known for his commentaries on Aristotle, and his film resembles a Hollywood period spectacular — exuberant, packed with action, and positively overflowing with energy. The Adopted Son is both the first independent feature ever made in Kyrgyzstan — a former Soviet republic in central Asia — and the first feature of 42-year-old writer-director Abdikalikov, who cast his own teenage son in the title role. It’s shot mainly in an exquisitely modulated black and white, though it periodically shifts to color, always with great dramatic effect.… Read more »

War of the Poses (OLEANNA)

From the November 11, 1994 Chicago Reader. — J.R.

*** OLEANNA

(A must-see)

Directed and written by David Mamet

With William H. Macy and Debra Eisenstadt.

David Mamet’s four features to date, none of them realistic, are all concerned to a greater or lesser extent with con games. Ultimately what one thinks of any of them has a lot to do with which side of the con one winds up on — which proves to be a matter of how one relates to the style as well as the content. Language is the major instrument of both seduction and deception in these films, and Mamet’s stylized use of it, playing on its ellipses and ambiguities as well as its more abstract and musical qualities, often deceives and seduces the audience. So how one responds to these characters has a lot to do with how one reacts to these language games.

To my mind, House of Games and the first half of Things Change are seductive (if brittle) fantasies about the allure and danger of spinning seductive fantasies; the second half of Things Change and Homicide are outsized sentimental bluffs. All three films star Joe Mantegna, are about criminals, and bear some relation to Hollywood genres; but where one places one’s trust and emotional allegiances is different in each case.… Read more »

Sweet Outrage [SCOTCH TAPE & FLAMING CREATURES]

From the Chicago Reader (February 20, 1998). — J.R.

Scotch Tape

Rating *** A must see

Directed by Jack Smith

With Jerry Sims, Ken Jacobs, and Reese Haire.

Flaming Creatures

Rating **** Masterpiece

Directed by Jack Smith

With Francis Francine, Sheila Bick, Joel Markman, Judith Malina, Dolores Flores, Marian Zazeela, and Smith.

You’d never imagine this from the mainstream press, but experimental film is on the rise again, as a taste as well as an undertaking — even if it’s often returning in mutated forms like video or in areas of filmmaking where we least expect it. At the Rotterdam International Film Festival three weeks ago, hundreds of Dutch viewers, most of them in their 20s, stormed the largest multiplex in Holland — one of the best-designed facilities I know of, suggesting an unlikely cross between a Borders and a Beaubourg, a mall and an airport — to see work that’s thought to have little or no drawing power in this country. They watched short experimental videos from Berlin, London, and Providence, Rhode Island, at a crowded weekday afternoon program called “City Sounds.” They watched Blue Moon, a charismatic Taiwanese feature by Ko I-cheng whose five reels can be shown in any order (they all feature the same characters and settings, but whether the five plots match up chronologically or as parallel fictional universes — signifying flashbacks, flash-forwards, or variations on a theme — is left to the viewer).… Read more »