An exchange done via email for MUBI in November 2020. — J.R.
Jonathan Rosenbaum: What were the personal (or autobiographical) aspects of your film Farpões Baldios (Barbs, Wastelands), and what were the less personal aspects?
Marta Mateus: In any art, everything’s autobiographical, isn’t it? This film is based, first, on the experience and history of the people I grew up with, on the stories they shared with me since my childhood. These stories are in their hands, their gazes, in what binds us together, perhaps also in our blood and in our dreams. Landscapes also participate in it: it’s the source, the roots, a matter of fertility, hope, grief, shadow, solitude, birth, rebirth, joy, struggle. Therefore, there is also collective experience, historical memory and the landscape has its marked wounds, just like us. Thousands of years of exploitation, of nature and of man by man. There was a very clear route to follow, for us all, but no need to be spoken. Filming was a form of communion, in search of our other selves and each other–maybe a ritual, not “recreation” or narration but action. It was a very long process but made in a state of emergency; we only became aware of some things afterwards.… Read more »
With Doug E. Doug, Mario Joyner, John Leguizamo, Nestor Serrano,
Kimberly Russell, and Mary B. Ward.
Sometimes wonderful movies just don’t have a chance. Hangin’ With the Homeboys is more truthful, more fully realized, and more densely felt than Jungle Fever, Up Against the Wall, Straight Out of Brooklyn, Boyz N the Hood, and Livin’ Large. But it’s turned up after these others, and it has fewer calling cards: no stars, no violent deaths, no preachy slogans, no film-festival hoopla or media hype. And it has a lousy title to boot, one that sounds like a movie you’ve already seen but remember only vaguely. (I wanted to give this movie a better chance by making it a “Critic’s Choice” last week, but the paper was already loaded with them.)
After Dave Kehr’s rave review in the Tribune a week ago, however, I had some hopes for the film’s chances. And wanting to take a second look, I caught the late show at the Broadway the same night. The others who were there seemed to love the movie as much as I did, but there weren’t very many of us.… Read more »
Wong Kar-wai’s idiosyncratic style first became apparent in this gorgeously moody second feature (1991), whose romantic vision of 1960 Hong Kong as a network of unfulfilled longings would later echo through In the Mood for Love. Leslie Cheung, Hong Kong’s answer to James Dean (in fact the movie appropriates its Cantonese title of Rebel Without a Cause), plays a heartless ladies’ man, raised by a prostitute, who eventually leaves for the Philippines in search of his real mother. Maggie Cheung is a waitress whom he woos with his philosophical ruminations on a wall clock, and Andy Lau is a lonely cop who yearns for her. This was conceived as the first of two movies, and its puzzling coda was intended as a teaser for the second part; the box-office failure of Days of Being Wild precluded a sequel and delayed its stateside release for years, though its lack of dramatic closure now seems almost appropriate. As critic Tony Rayns has noted, it’s the first film to rhyme nostalgia for a half-imaginary past with future shock. In Cantonese with subtitles. 94 min. (JR)
From the Chicago Reader (January 3, 1992). A 2020 postscript to my remarks on For the Boys has been added. — J.R.
Looking at the big-time U.S. studio releases of 1991 — most of which enjoyed free supplements to their hefty advertising budgets from every branch of the media — we’d have to conclude that this was a year without enduring masterpieces. The best are intelligent entertainments, most of which faded quickly from memory. If I had to choose the ten best from this group, they’d be (in alphabetical order): Barton Fink, Beauty and the Beast, Bugsy, Defending Your Life, The Fisher King, For the Boys, Jungle Fever, Once Around, Rambling Rose, and Thelma and Louise. Equally good or even better are some new American pictures that didn’t get anything like the same national attention: Chameleon Street, City of Hope, The Deadman (only 37 minutes long, but better than most features I saw), Hangin’ With the Homeboys, A Little Stiff, My Own Private Idaho, Poison, Reunion, and Trust. The best American documentaries that come to mind are Butoh: Body at the Edge of Crisis, Inside Life Outside, Lines of Fire, Paris Is Burning, Private Conversations on the Set of Death of a Salesman, Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll, and the videos of Sadie Benning.… Read more »