Daily Archives: July 28, 2019

Synecdoche, New York

From the Chicago Reader (October 16, 2008). — J.R.

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Screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) makes his directorial debut with this feature, but it seems more like an illustration of his script than a full-fledged movie, proving how much he needs a Spike Jonze or a Michel Gondry to realize his surrealistic conceits. Tortured and torturous, it centers on a theater director from Schenectady (Philip Seymour Hoffman) who wins a MacArthur Fellowship but whose wife (Catherine Keener) leaves him; in response he tries to create a play that will represent his entire life experience, building a replica of New York City inside a warehouse. The usually resourceful Hoffman can’t sustain interest even after developing a receding hairline to make him resemble Jack Nicholson, and the other able players — Samantha Morton, Michelle Williams, Emily Watson, Dianne Wiest, Tom Noonan, Hope Davis, and Jennifer Jason Leigh — mainly tread water. R, 124 min. (JR)

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Pulp Fiction

From the Chicago Reader (October 1, 1994). — J.R.

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Quentin Tarantino’s second feature (1994), a chronologically scrambled collection of interlocking crime stories, extracts most of its kicks from other movies and TV shows. Despite all its thematic nudges about redemption and second chances its true agenda is the flip side of Forrest Gump: to make the media-savvy viewer the real hero of the story. A wet dream for 14-year-old male closet queens (or, perhaps more accurately, the 14-year-old male closet queen in each of us), this smart-alecky movie sparkles with canny twists and turns. John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Willis, and Harvey Keitel vibrate with high-voltage star power, while Uma Thurman, Ving Rhames, Maria de Medeiros, Tim Roth, and Amanda Plummer amply fill out the remaining scenery. The overall project is evident: to evict real life and real people from the art film and replace them with generic teases and assorted hommages. Don’t expect any of the life experiences of the old movie sources to leak through; punchy, flamboyant surface is all. R, 154 min. (JR)

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Splitting Images [THREE LIVES AND ONLY ONE DEATH & LOST HIGHWAY]

From the Chicago Reader (February 28, 1997). — J.R.

Three Lives and Only One Death

Rating *** A must see

Directed by Raul Ruiz

Written by Ruiz and Pascal Bonitzer

With Marcello Mastroianni, Anna Galiena, Marisa Paredes, Melvil Poupaud, Chiara Mastroianni, Arielle Dombasle, Feodor Atkine, and Lou Castel.

Lost Highway

Rating *** A must see

Directed by David Lynch

Written by Lynch and Barry Gifford

With Bill Pullman, Patricia Arquette, Balthazar Getty, Michael Massee, Robert Blake, Gary Busey, Lucy Butler, Robert Loggia, and Richard Pryor.

By coincidence, two major features by two of the most talented postsurrealist filmmakers open this week, both convoluted parables about heroes with multiple identities. Though Raul Ruiz and David Lynch are separated by a world of differences — political, cultural, national, intellectual, and temperamental — both are expanding the options in filmmaking as well as filmgoing. Each offers a different kind of roller-coaster ride that manages to be bewildering, provocative, kaleidoscopic, scary, visually intoxicating, and funny.

Ruiz — a Chilean who moved to Paris in 1974 and who makes movies all over the world (in France, Italy, Taiwan, and the U.S. in the past year alone) — has made 90-odd films and videos to date, though he’s only five years older than Lynch.… Read more »