Monthly Archives: February 1989

Magick Lantern Cycle

Kenneth Anger’s visionary magnum opus of the avant-garde, a work spanning 1947 almost to the present. Essential viewing. Approximately 150 minutes, at least at last count (the work is constantly being revised). (JR)… Read more »


Jerry Blumenthal and Gordon Quinn of Chicago’s Kartemquin Films focus for just under an hour on New York painter Leon Golub as he plans, executes, exhibits, and discusses one of his powerful canvases (1988). In the process Blumenthal and Quinn manage to make what is probably not only Kartemquin’s best film but also the best film account of the creation of a work of artan accomplishment that’s leagues ahead of such efforts as Clouzot’s The Mystery of Picasso and Paul Cox’s Vincent. Lucidly following the step-by-step process of Golub’s deliberations and creative work, the film also makes splendid use of TV news footage to pinpoint the social and political contexts of Golub’s artthe degree to which the violence and power relationships that he depicts with such clarity exist all around us. One of the inspirations of this highly concentrated and kinetic documentary was to eliminate the critical discourse of the art world entirely; what we get instead are the comments and reactions of ordinary spectators, many of which are penetrating and perceptive. Bristling with energy, movement, thought, and passion, and enhanced by an especially effective music score, this is essential viewing. 56 min. (JR)… Read more »

Farewell To The King

John Milius’s sincere but lachrymose adaptation of Pierre Schoendoerffer’s novel L’adieu au roi, set in Borneo during World War II, follows the adventures of one Sergeant Learoyd (Nick Nolte), a U.S. Army deserter and former communist who becomes king of the Dayaks, the headhunters of central Borneo, and his friendship with a British officer (Nigel Havers), who narrates the story and persuades the king to join forces with his troops against the Japanese. Like all of Milius’s best work, this is lush and romantic stuff, but the sentimentality about Learoyd’s freedom and nobility continually threatens to turn this Kipling-like tale into camp, and as in Milius’s infamous Red Dawn, grown men weep copiously throughout. For better and for worse, this is a 50s epic for ten-year-old boys, even down to the John Ford references (Learoyd teaches his tribesmen, whom he calls Comanches, how to sing The Rising of the Moon); the storytelling is clean, and even the watery flashback transitions reek of the writer-director’s movie boyhood. With Frank McRae, Gerry Lopez, Marilyn Tokuda, James Fox, and a cameo by John Bennett Perry as Douglas MacArthur (who also gets the hero-worship treatment). (JR)… Read more »


James Toback’s third feature is marginally less silly and overblown than its two predecessors, Fingers and Love and Money, although Harvey Keitel as a Paris terrorist does manage to stretch this premise at times. Nastassia Kinski does remarkably well, however, with her American accent as a midwestern heroine who quits school, comes to New York, makes the big time as a fashion model, and then becomes involved with Rudolf Nureyev’s plot to kill Keitel. As usual with Toback, the proceedings are passionate, overripe, rhetorical, and undeniably kinetic. Whether or not you wind up hooting with disbelief largely depends on your capacities to share Toback’s macho conceits (1983). (JR)

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Eat The Rich

This British satirical farcedirected by Peter Richardson, written by Richardson and Peter Richens, and starring members of the Comic Strip Troupeconcerns a group of social outcasts waging class war against the jet set. Produced by Michael White (The Rocky Horror Picture Show), the movie includes cameos by Koo Stark, Miranda Richardson, Robbie Coltrane, Bill Wyman, and Paul and Linda McCartney, as well as music by Motorhead. Much of the action centers on a fancy gourmet restaurant for the ultrarich (Excuse me, the baby panda, is it fried in honey?) that is eventually taken over by a team of revolutionary archers, including a disaffected black waiter. The campaign for prime minister by a home secretary called Nosh is another prominent narrative thread. While this film has its moments, it’s a sad commentary on the nature of late-80s political alienation that Richardson and company seem bent on ridiculing poor and rich alike without much of a coherent position of their own. The cannibalism metaphor that eventually becomes prominent seems to have been arrived at mechanically. (JR)… Read more »

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

Steve Martin and Michael Caine star in a loose 1988 remake of the 1964 comedy Bedtime Story (which starred Marlon Brando and David Niven), about a couple of competing con men who prey on wealthy women. Set on the French Riviera, the movie has the kind of plot that cries out for the stylish treatment that a Billy Wilder could bring to it; without it, the various twists seem needlessly spun out and implausible, although Martin is allowed to show off his brand of very physical comedy to some advantage, and Miles Goodman contributes a pleasant score. Written by Dale Launer, Stanley Shapiro, and Paul Henning; directed by Frank Oz; with Barbara Harris (wasted as usual), Glenne Headly, and Anton Rogers. (JR)… Read more »

Broken Noses

Bruce Weber’s arty black-and-white documentary (1987) about Andy Minskera professional junior-lightweight boxer who runs a boxing camp for kids in Portland, Oregonaccompanied by the music of Chet Baker and Julie London, among others. Visually striking but otherwise not very absorbing, apart from its homoerotic interest, this conveys some of the modulated glamour of Weber’s Calvin Klein magazine ads. But its romantic vision finds a much better subject in Weber’s subsequent documentary about Chet Baker, Let’s Get Lost. (JR)… Read more »

Branded To Kill

Reputedly one of Seijun Suzuki’s finest works and unquestionably very stylish in its ‘Scope framings (Jim Jarmusch copied a few shots from it in his forthcoming Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai), this 1967 gangster film stars Jo Shishido as Hanada Goro, Tokyo’s number three killer, who carries out a series of gangland murders while his boss is seducing his wife. Then Goro flubs an assignment and finds himself marked for a rubout. The film’s cynicism and coldness led to Suzuki being fired from Nikkatsu studio, sparking a major controversy in the Japanese film world; it was a decade before Suzuki made another film. With Annu Mari and Mariko Ogawa. (JR)… Read more »

The Big Red One

The most ambitious war film in Samuel Fuller’s career, a chronicle of his own First Infantry Division in World War II, was a long time coming. When it finally made it to the screen, a wholesale reediting by the studio and a tacked-on narration (by filmmaker Jim McBride) made it something less than Fuller originally intended. But it’s still a grand-style, idiosyncratic war epic, with wonderful poetic ideas, intense emotions, and haunting images rich in metaphysical portent. The effective cast is headed by Lee Marvin (as the grim and hardened sergeant), Mark Hamill, Bobby Di Cicco, and Robert Carradine. Packed with energy and observation, it is full of unforgettable, spellbinding moments (1980). (JR)… Read more »


From the Chicago Reader (February 1, 1989). — J.R.

The conclusion of Michelangelo Antonioni’s loose trilogy (preceded by L’Avventura and La Notte), this 1961 film is conceivably the best in Antonioni’s career, but significantly it has the least consequential plot. A sometime translator (Monica Vitti) recovering from an unhappy love affair briefly links up with a stockbroker (Alain Delon) in Rome, though the stunning final montage sequence — perhaps the most powerful thing Antonioni has ever done — does without these characters entirely. Alternately an essay and a prose poem about the contemporary world in which the love story figures as one of many motifs, this is remarkable both for its visual/atmospheric richness and its polyphonic and polyrhythmic mise en scene (Antonioni’s handling of crowds at the Roman stock exchange is never less than amazing). In Italian with subtitles. 123 min. (JR)

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