From the Chicago Reader (August 5, 2005). — J.R.
** (Worth seeing)
Directed and written by Ingmar Bergman
With Liv Ullmann, Erland Josephon, Borje Ahlstedt, Julia Dufvenius, and Gunnel Fred
*** (A must see)
Directed and written by Jim Jarmusch
With Bill Murray, Julie Delpy, Jeffrey Wright, Sharon Stone, Alexis Dziena, Frances Conroy, Christopher McDonald, Chloe Svigny, Jessica Lange, Tilda Swinton, and Mark Webber
Ingmar Bergman’s Saraband and Jim Jarmusch’s Broken Flowers are two minimalist features about burned-out individuals picking over the wreckage of relationships they can barely remember and about the special art of not really giving a shit. (A third is Gus Van Sant’s Last Days, scheduled to open here next week.) With its sprawling and far from symmetrical plot, Saraband, made in 2003 for Swedish television, is stark and economical, with a small cast of characters and sparse rural settings, and it seems like an apocalyptic endgame in terms of Bergman’s own career — the end of the world as he knows it. It was shot in digital video, and at Bergman’s insistence is being projected as such — and his peculiar use of that medium is what makes this work compelling.
I wouldn’t dream of contesting Bergman’s status as a film master.… Read more »
Adapted from “Cannes, tour de Babel critique,” translated by Jean-Luc Mengus, in Traﬁc no. 23, automne 1997. –- J.R.
By common agreement, the ﬁftieth anniversary of the Cannes
Film Festival, preﬁgured as a cause for celebration, wound up serving
more often as an occasion for complaint. Disappointment in the over-
all quality of the ﬁlms ran high, even if the arrival over the last four days
of ﬁlms by Abbas Kiarostami, Atom Egoyan, Youssef Chahine, and
Wong Kar-wai improved the climate somewhat. But I don’t mean to
suggest that the shared feelings of anger and frustration demonstrated
any critical unanimity. On the contrary, the overall malaise of Cannes this
year forced to a state of crisis the general critical disagreement and lack
of communication that has turned up repeatedly, in a variety of forms.
If the pressing question after every screening at Cannes is whether a ﬁlm
is good or bad (or, more often, given the climate of hyperbole,
wonderful or terrible) — a question that becomes much too pressing, because
it short-circuits the opportunity and even the desire to reﬂect on a ﬁlm for
a day or week before reaching any ﬁnal verdict about it — the widespread
disagreements at the festival derived not only from different and
irreconcilable deﬁnitions of “good” and “bad,” but also from different and
irreconcilable deﬁnitions of “ﬁlm.” And the ensuing Tower of Babel
brought into sharp relief the competing agendas — in some cases
implicit, in come cases explicit — of such an occasion.… Read more »
This appeared in the Chicago Reader‘s February 3, 2006 issue. Tommy Lee Jones’ subsequent feature, The Homesman, confirms the talent, originality, and boldness of Jones as a director, even if it may also come across at certain junctures as less lucid than its predecessor. — J.R.
The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada
Directed by Tommy Lee Jones
Written bu Guillermo Arriaga
With Jones, Barry Pepper, Julio Cesar Cedillo, Dwight Yoakam, January Jones, and Melissa Leo
At last year’s Cannes film festival, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada walked off with the prizes for best actor (Tommy Lee Jones) and best screenplay (Guillermo Arriaga). It’s often hard to disentangle story, acting, and direction when they’re working together as well as they are here, but I would have honored Jones for his direction. That prize went to Michael Haneke for Caché, his eighth theatrical feature. This is Jones’s first, though he directed (and cowrote and starred in) a made-for-TV western, the 1995 The Good Old Boys.
Both Haneke’s and Jones’s films are political. The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, a western, protests the abusive treatment of Mexican immigrants in west Texas, and Caché, an anxiety-ridden crime thriller, protests the abusive treatment of Algerians in France.… Read more »