Daily Archives: July 27, 2019

Being John Malkovich

From the Chicago Reader (October 12, 1999). — J.R.

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This outrageous comic fantasy may not sustain its brilliance throughout its 112 minutes, but it keeps cooking for so much of that time that I don’t have many complaints. The first feature of both screenwriter/executive producer Charlie Kaufman (who’s written for several TV series) and director Spike Jonze (who’s directed commercials, music videos, and short films), it charts the complications that ensue when an out-of-work puppeteer (John Cusack) gets a filing job on the surrealistically cramped seventh and a half floor of an office building, where he discovers a hidden tunnel that allows its occupant to become actor John Malkovich (playing himself, natch) for 15 minutes before being ejected onto the New Jersey Turnpike. Things get even wilder when the filing clerk and his wife (Cameron Diaz as a pet-store employee) both get the hots for the same woman (Catherine Keener), who has comparable lust for the wife as long as she’s inside Malkovich. What’s great about this lunatic farce isn’t only its premises about sexual and professional identity but also the spirited way the actors and filmmakers flesh them out. With Orson Bean and Mary Kay Place. (JR)

BJMRead more »

60s Wisdom [CANDY MOUNTAIN]

It seems like one way of characterizing a Robert Frank film nowadays would be to say that it’s likely a film for which it’s almost impossible to find any adequate illustrations on the Internet. This is why I’m mainly had to depend on a couple of posters here, as well as the book jacket for the recent reprint of Rudy Wurlitzer’s first novel. –J.R.

CANDY MOUNTAIN

*** (A must-see)

Directed by Robert Frank and Rudy Wurlitzer

Written by Wurlitzer

With Kevin J. O’Connor, Harris Yulin, Tom Waits, Bulle Ogier, Roberts Blossom, Leon Redbone, and Dr. John.

Is it my imagination, or has “60s” become less of a dirty word lately? Appearances can be deceptive, but in recent movies as diverse in quality (as well as in subject matter) as Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Young Guns, and Tucker, we seem finally to be acknowledging that certain 60s values persist in our minds and habits as something more positive than war wounds. The recognition comes slowly and begrudgingly, though — almost as if the Reagan era has kept it under lock and key, and plastered it over with warnings about freak-outs, burnouts, and death. So when something that might be called 60s wisdom makes an appearance in our midst, it deserves to be treasured and savored rather than hastily filed away.… Read more »

Reservoir Dogs

From the Chicago Reader (March 1, 1993). — J.R.

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A stunning debut (1992) from writer-director Quentin Tarantino, though a far cry from Stanley Kubrick’s 1956 The Killing, to which it clearly owes a debt. Like The Killing, it employs an intricate flashback structure to follow the before and after of a carefully planned heist and explores some of the homoerotic allegiances, betrayals, and tensions involved; unlike The Killing, it never flashes back to the heist itself and leaves a good many knots still tied at the end. The hoods here — including Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Steve Buscemi, and (in a bit) Tarantino himself — are all ex-cons hired by an older ex-con (Lawrence Tierney) who conceals their identities from one another by assigning them the names of colors. Our grasp of what’s going on is always in flux, and Tarantino’s skill with actors, dialogue, ‘Scope framing, and offbeat construction is kaleidoscopic. More questionable are the show-offy celebrations of brutality: buckets of blood, racist and homophobic invective, and an excruciating sequence of sadistic torture and (offscreen) mutilation that’s clearly meant to awe us with its sheer unpleasantness. It’s unclear whether this macho thriller does anything to improve the state of the world or our understanding of it, but it certainly sets off enough rockets to hold and shake us for every one of its 99 minutes.… Read more »