Jean-Luc Godard takes on the Bosnian war in this 1997 French-Swiss production, broken into four segments: “Theater,” “You Don?t Fool With Love in Sarajevo,” “A Film About In-Tranquillity,” and “For Ever Mozart.” No Godard film is devoid of interest, and all his work (with the arguable exception of some of his post-’68 efforts, like Un film commes les autres) is worth seeing, but this treatment of war as bad theater and the vicissitudes of the film business strikes me as being his least-inspired feature since the late 60s. Working with a cast of unknowns who are encouraged not to outshine one another, and staging bits of Bosnian warfare on property that belonged to his late grandparents in Switzerland, he makes his isolation and his distance from his contemporary subjects more of an issue this time. An erotically framed, beautifully lit female torso in a doorway, imitating a Bosnian corpse, points to where some of the problems lie. The unidiomatic title, by the way, is a somewhat forced bilingual pun that can also be read as “pour rever Mozart,” i.e., “to dream Mozart.”
From Tikkun, November/December 1990, Vol. 5, No. 6. This was my second and (to date) final contribution to this magazine. As I recall, I wasn’t too happy with the way I was edited on this one (although the published version — which they called “Out to Lynch,” and is only slightly altered here — is the only one I have now); I was much happier working with Peter Cole on my previous article for Tikkun, “Notes Towards the Devaluation of Woody Allen“. -– J.R.
“All I know for sure is there’s already more’n a few bad ideas runnin’ around loose out there.” — Sailor to Lula in Barry Gifford’s Wild at Heart: The Story of Sailor and Lula
I couldn’t care less about changing the conventions of mainstream television. — David Lynch, November 1989
From The Birth of a Nation to Fatal Attraction, puritanism and political naïveté have frequently turned out be a winning combination in American movies. The recent popularity of David Lynch, however, puts a new spin on this formula. Sailor’s line — repeated in Lynch’s new movie based on Gifford’s novel — in a way summarizes Lynch’s work to date: an oeuvre that has recently expanded from paintings, movies, and a weekly comic strip to include two new TV series (Twin Peaks and American Chronicles, both coproduced by Mark Frost), an opera, a pop record album, commercials for Calvin Klein, a coffee-table book due out next fall, and undoubtedly other enterprises as well.… Read more »
From the Chicago Reader (November 1, 1997). — J.R.
A turning point in the history of Taiwanese cinema, Edward Yang’s 1985 masterpiece suggests a rough parallel with Abbas Kiarostami’s Close-up in relation to Iranian cinema by virtue of featuring the other key Taiwanese filmmaker, Hou Hsiao-hsien, in a leading role, much as Mohsen Makhmalbaf is featured in Kiarostami’s film. Hou, who also collaborated on the script, plays an alienated businessman working for a textile manufacturer who was an ace baseball player in his youth; when his girlfriend (pop star Tsai Chin) loses her job at a computer firm, their relationship begins to crumble. But this couple’s malaise is only part of a multifaceted sense of confusion and despair that affects three generations of Taipei residents during a period of economic boom, and Yang’s mastery in weaving together all his characters and subplots against a glittering urban landscape anticipates the major themes of his subsequent works. Essential viewing. (JR)
From the Chicago Reader (December 1, 1997). — J.R.
Writer-director Steven Soderbergh (Sex, Lies, and Videotape, Kafka, King of the Hill, The Underneath) tries his hand at outrageous screwball comedy, with very mixed results. Playing the lead part himself and shooting with a cast of unknowns in Louisiana, where he grew up, he proceeds largely by peppering his dialogue with various non sequiturs and stretches of nonsense (pacifist cottage . . . Belgian disregard . . . nose army . . . Vienna dog is one fair sample) and bad puns (I may vote Republican, says a dentist, but I’m a firm believer in gum control) and throwing in irreverent asides (No fish was harmed during the making of this film, reads an opening title, and one sign posted to a tree reads, Idea missing). Given the audacity, it would be a pleasure to report that the results are hilarious, but most of it isn’t even funny, and the sense of anything goes hangs heavy over the film as it develops. An authentic curiosity, but proceed at your own risk. (JR)