Daily Archives: January 20, 1989

The Chocolate War

Best known for his work as an actor (he played the young Roy Scheider in All That Jazz and the lead in Home Movies), writer-director Keith Gordon makes his directorial debut in this odd, cold stylistic exercise set at a Catholic school and based on a novel of the same title by Robert Cormier. The plot involves the school’s drive to sell twice as many boxes of chocolates as it sold the previous year, and the intervention of a sadistic hazing club at the school known as the Vigils. Some reviewers have been bothered by the relative absence of characters’ backgrounds and motivations, but for Gordon’s arty purposes the stripped-down story and cast of characters are modeled to fit, and the insistent use of pop music on the sound track is equally effective. Thematically, the film recalls Calder Willingham’s End as a Man and the film version made of it (The Strange One, 1957); the presiding influence here seems to be Kubrick, and while the viewer may remain relatively uninvolved, the film’s address commands attention. With John Glover, Ilan Mitchell-Smith, Wally Ward, Doug Hutchinson, Jenny Wright, and Bud Cort, all of them quite serviceable. (Fine Arts)… Read more »

Peking Opera Blues

Set in Hong Kong in 1914, Tsui Hark’s highly energetic and quickly paced comedy-thriller pits three women of different classes–a housemaid, the daughter of a warlord, and the daughter of the owner of the Peking Opera–against a group of powerful warlords. The three actresses are reportedly Hong Kong’s three most popular; the lighting and the nonstop pacing smack of Spielberg–for better and for worse. (Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Saturday, January 21, 2:00 and 7:45, and Sunday, January 22, 6:00, 443-3737; also Univ. of Chicago, 1212 E. 59th St., Wednesday, January 25, 7:00, 702-8574)… Read more »