Daily Archives: November 13, 1987


From the Chicago Reader (November 13, 1987). — J.R.


*** (A must-see)

Directed and written by John Boorman

With Sebastian Rice Edwards, Sarah Miles, David Hayman, Derrick O’Connor, Susan Wooldridge, Sammi Davis, and Ian Bannen.

Disasters sometimes take on a certain nostalgic coziness when seen through the filter of public memory. Southerners’ recollections of the Civil War and the afterglow felt by many who lived through the Depression are probably the two strongest examples of this in our national history — perhaps because such catastrophes tend to bring people together out of fear and necessity, obliterating many of the artificial barriers that keep them apart in calmer times. When I attended an interracial, coed camp for teenagers in Tennessee in the summer of 1961, shortly after the Freedom Rides, the very fact that our lives were in potential danger every time we left the grounds en masse — or were threatened with raids by local irate whites — automatically turned all of us into an extended family. Considering some of the cultural differences between us, I wonder if we could have bridged the gaps so speedily if the fear of mutually shared violence hadn’t been so palpable.

The images that we inherit of other people’s disasters are often suffused by a similar nostalgia.… Read more »

Hey Babu Riba

Based on the personal memories of Yugoslavian writer-director Joven Acin and executive producers George Zecevic and Petar Jankovic, this nostalgic account of growing up in Belgrade in the early 50s centers on a mystery: Miriana (Gala Videnovic), the beautiful mascot of an inseparable male rowing team, becomes pregnant, and the four loyal youths, all of whom love her, row her illegally across the border to her father in Italy, but jointly refuse to declare who the father of the child is. In the course of solving this mystery through an extended flashback, the film offers a fresh and evocative look at the political and cultural tensions of the period, when American incursions like black-market blue jeans and jazz were vying against the lingering, Soviet presence. Two movies of the period figure significantly in this conflict: Bathing Beauty, an Esther Williams musical that furnishes the five friends with their theme song and Miriana with her nickname, Esther; and One Summer of Happiness, a soft-core Swedish art film (mislabeled She Only Danced One Summer by the English subtitler), which plays a role in Miriana’s eventual pregnancy. Like The Last Picture Show, Hey Babu Riba is sentimental, saccharine in spots, and affecting–a bit simplistic in some of its moral shadings, but a heartfelt account of a time, place, and group of friends nonetheless.… Read more »

Family Life/La pirate

In its latest act of trail blazing, the Film Center is offering the first U.S. retrospective devoted to Jacques Doillon, a post-New Wave French director whose singular movies have received next to no attention here. Emotionally unbridled and extreme in their depictions of passion and familial tensions, they are not for every taste, but it’s hard to think of many other films like them. La pirate (1984), probably the wildest in the bunch, centers on the amour fou of an anguished lesbian couple (Jane Birkin and Maruschka Detmers) reigniting their affair, with the former’s husband (perversely played by Birkin’s brother), a mysterious little girl, and an eccentric friend named Number Five (Philippe Leotard) all in tow. Family Life (1985), which begins with a comparable amount of screaming and thrashing around, eventually settles down into a quieter study–this time of a broken family and the efforts of an estranged father (Sami Frey) to establish rapport with his ten-year-old daughter (Maro Goyet) during an extended car trip to Spain. Aiming for the intensity of a Racinian tragedy, La pirate sticks so closely to the hothouse atmosphere generated by its five characters that we’re made to feel like intruders on a cryptic, brutal psychodrama; the more naturalistic Family Life allows us and the characters to breathe more freely, but a sense of emotional impasse is equally present.… Read more »