Daily Archives: September 12, 2020

The Corporation

From the April 23, 2004 Chicago Reader. — J.R.

Absorbing and instructive, this 2003 Canadian documentary tackles no less a subject than the geopolitical impact of the corporation, forcing us to reexamine an institution that may regulate our lives more than any other. Directors Mark Achbar (Manufacturing Consent) and Jennifer Abbott and writer Joel Bakan cogently summarize the history of the chartered corporation, showing how it accumulated the legal privileges of a person even as it shed the responsibilities. This conceit allows the filmmakers to catalog all manner of corporate malfeasance as they argue, wittily and persuasively, that corporations are clinically psychotic. The talking heads include not only political commentators like Noam Chomsky, Milton Friedman, Naomi Klein, Michael Moore, and Howard Zinn, but CEOs such as Ray Anderson, Sam Gibara, Robert Keyes, Jonathon Ressler, and Clay Timon, whose insights vary enormously. This runs 145 minutes, but it’s so packed with ideas I wasn’t bored for a second. (JR)

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Defending Bresson

From the Chicago Reader (April 2, 2004). This wonderful documentary, incidentally, is now available on the Criterion DVD of Pickpocket. One of its most fascinating paradoxes for me is that Mangolte, a friend, isn’t a religious person, but this documentary strikes me as profoundly spiritual; Lasalle’s home is even treated as a sacred shrine. — J.R.

Les modèles de “Pickpocket”


Directed and written by Babette Mangolte

With Pierre Leymarie, Marika Green, and Martin Lasalle.

Not until he was in his late 90s did Robert Bresson get the recognition he deserved. He died in 1999 at the age of 98, living long enough to see his work affirmed by a retrospective the Toronto Cinematheque’s James Quandt organized that traveled around the world to full houses.

For years mainstream critics regarded Bresson as esoteric, pretentious, even something of a joke. “The chief fault is that the hero is a vacancy, not a character,” wrote Stanley Kauffmann in one of the more sympathetic reviews of Bresson’s 1959 Pickpocket, a free adaptation of Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment. “Martin Lasalle, who plays the part, has a bony, sensitive face, but no deader pan has crossed the screen since Buster Keaton. The besetting fallacy of modern French films and novels is the belief that nullity equals malaise and/or profundity.”… Read more »

Young Adam

From the Chicago Reader (April 30, 2004). — J.R.

David Mackenzie’s compelling and authoritative adaptation of Alexander Trocchi’s 1953 novel revolves around a nihilistic bargeman (perfectly embodied by Ewan McGregor) who works the canals between Edinburgh and Glasgow and spends all his free time reading and screwing (often adulterously). This emotional detachment is often treated as an existential position, so the story occasionally suggests a beat version of Camus’ The Stranger, with the images’ sensual and erotic power often superseding any literal meaning. Despite the flashback structure, this is a film in which mood matters more than plot, while the hero’s heroic stature steadily shrinks. All in all, a very impressive second feature. With Tilda Swinton (The Deep End), Peter Mullan (My Name Is Joe), and Emily Mortimer. NC-17, 93 min. Century 12 and CineArts 6, Pipers Alley.

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