The following interview took place in a hotel lobby in early February. My friend Kinga Keszthelyi, who arranged my visit to Budapest, is on the left, and Simon is on the right. — J.R.
From Movie Mutations to 1968:
An Interview with Jonathan Rosenbaum in Budapest
Jonathan Rosenbaum visited Budapest earlier this year to give a lecture about Abbas Kiarostami and Orson Welles. During this special seminar, he discussed the similarities in the two filmmakers’ relations to self-criticism and the dominating presences of investigations, interrogations and unsolved mysteries in both oeuvres.
I felt great liberation when I discovered Jonathan Rosenbaum’s criticism at the end of my teenage years. The stupidity of critics I was aware of at the beginning of my cinephilia actually led me to the nonsensical conclusion that I had to become a filmmaker to speak about other people’s films in an acceptable and intellectually satisfying way. On my first encounter with Jonathan’s work, I found what I didn’t know I was seeking and it changed my attitude forever. Having said that, it’s quite obvious that I was over the moon to be able to interview him.
I have been interviewing Alexander Horwath for the last two years about several topics and my main interest was to ask Jonathan about his book, Movie Mutations.… Read more »
From the January 13, 1995 Chicago Reader. — J.R.
With the help of Rafael Yglesias and Ariel Dorfman, Roman Polanski has adapted Dorfman’s three-character play about a former political prisoner (Sigourney Weaver) kidnapping a doctor (Ben Kingsley) whom she believes was her torturer, while her lawyer husband (Stuart Wilson) serves as a go-between. Even though he’s psychologically expanded his source, the material is a bit too schematic to work as much more than a scaled-down thriller. By plunking three characters down in a remote location beside a body of water Polanski revives some of the triangular tensions found in his Knife in the Water and portions of his Cul-de-sac, but this comes across as a less personal work than either of those films or Bitter Moon, and is intermittently hampered by the mental adjustments that have to be made in order to accept English and American actors playing South American characters. Even so, Polanski certainly gets the maximum voltage and precision out of his story and actors, keeping us preternaturally alert to shifting power relationships and delayed revelations. It’s refreshing to see this mastery in a climate where there’s so little of it around. Water Tower.
… Read more »
From the Chicago Reader (August 24, 1989). — J.R.
SEX, LIES, AND VIDEOTAPE
*** (A must-see)
Directed and written by Steven Soderbergh
With Andie MacDowell, James Spader, Laura San Giacomo, and Peter Gallagher.
As its lowercase title suggests, sex, lies, and videotape is an example of lowercase filmmaking: lean, economical, relatively unpretentious (or at least pretentiously unpretentious), and purposefully small-scale. Its having walked off with the Cannes film festival’s Palme d’Or — making first-time writer-director Steven Soderbergh at 26 the youngest filmmaker ever to win that prize — saddles it with more of a reputation than it can comfortably live up to. In a time of relative drought, it’s certainly a small oasis, but the attention it’s been getting befits something closer to a breakthrough geyser.
All the fuss may be a sign of panic over more than just movies. Sexual repression is reflected in various ways in current pictures, but this is the only one that deals with it forthrightly as its central subject — specifically, as the main preoccupation of its two leading characters — and broaches sexual problems such as impotence and frigidity in the bargain. I haven’t heard such giddy, unnatural-sounding laughter in a movie theater since The Decline of the American Empire hit the art-house circuit a few years ago — the same sort of forced, hyped-up hilarity at the mere mention of words like “fucking” and “penis” and “getting off.” This makes it only that much harder to discuss a movie like Soderbergh’s, which tries to be level-headed and truthful about such matters.… Read more »