Daily Archives: January 5, 1990

Solaris

After being circulated in various truncated versions in this country, Andrei Tarkovsky’s beautiful, enigmatic, and highly idiosyncratic SF spectacle has finally been restored to its original 167 minutes. Although Tarkovsky regarded this 1972 feature (his third), beautifully composed in ‘Scope, as the weakest of his films, it holds up remarkably well as a soulful Soviet “response” to 2001: A Space Odyssey that concentrates on the limits of man’s imagination in relation to memory and conscience. Sent to a remote space station poised over the mysterious planet Solaris in order to investigate the puzzling data sent back by an earlier mission, a psychologist (Donatis Banionis) discovers that the planet materializes human forms based on the troubled memories of the space explorers–including the psychologist’s own beautiful wife (Natalya Bondarchuk), who killed herself many years before and is repeatedly resurrected before his eyes. More an exploration of inner space than of outer space, Tarkovsky’s eerie mystic parable is given substance by the filmmaker’s boldly original grasp of film language and the remarkable performances by all the principals; while it may not be the equal of such masterpieces as Andrej Roublev and Stalker, it remains one of the key Russian films of the 70s, charged with poetry, passion, and mystery.… Read more »

Sidewalk Stories

Disarming in the simplicity and sentimentality of its basic conception, this mainly silent black-and-white comedy reworks the basic coordinates of Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid in terms of the homeless in contemporary lower Manhattan. Written, directed, produced by, and starring Charles Lane, the movie focuses on a young black sidewalk portrait artist who finds himself caring for a two-year-old girl after her father is murdered in an alley. The comparisons provoked by Lane between himself and Chaplin are not always fortunate; in spite of his obvious talent and sincerity, the filmmaker-performer doesn’t come across as any sort of genius. It’s just as clear that 1921, the year of The Kid, is not 1989; the gags tend to be both more modest and less plentiful, and the characters are even simpler than Chaplin’s. Nevertheless, Lane’s conceit is handled with such unassuming sweetness and charm that it never comes across as presumptuous or pretentious, and the simple authority of his conclusion–which uses dialogue in order to point out what most of us refuse to hear when we’re walking down the street–is unimpeachable. One should also credit Marc Marder with a memorable jaunty score that subtly enhances the pantomime without belaboring it. With Nicole Alysia, Sandye Wilson, and Darnell Williams.… Read more »