Daily Archives: January 4, 1991

Ticket of No Return

Of the many films by Ulrike Ottinger that I have seen, this lovely 1979 camp item has given me the most unbridled pleasure. A nameless heroine (Tabea Blumenschein) arrives in West Berlin on a one-way ticket in order to drink herself to death, and three prim ladies known as Social Question (Magdalena Montezuma), Accurate Statistics (Orpha Termin), and Common Sense (Monika Von Cube) stand around and kibitz. Thanks to the heroine’s wardrobe, the diverse settings, the witty dialogue, the imaginative mise en scene, and an overall celebratory and festive spirit, this is a continuous string of delights–worth anybody’s time. (Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Friday, January 4, 6:00, 443-3737)… Read more »

Killer of Sheep

The first feature (1978) of the highly talented and singular black filmmaker Charles Burnett, all of whose films (including My Brother’s Wedding and To Sleep With Anger) are based in Watts; this one deals episodically with the life of a slaughterhouse worker (Henry Sanders). Shot on weekends over a year on a minuscule budget (less than $20,000), this remarkable work was recently selected for preservation by the National Film Registry as one of the key works of the American cinema–an ironic and belated form of recognition for a film that still has had virtually no distribution and has seldom been seen. It shouldn’t be missed. (Facets Multimedia Center, 1517 W. Fullerton, Friday and Saturday, January 4 and 5, 7:00 and 9:00; Sunday, January 6, 5:30 and 7:30; and Monday through Thursday, January 7 through 10, 7:00 and 9:00; 281-4114)… Read more »

Camp Thiaroye

It’s possible that a good half of the greatest African movies ever made are the work of novelist-turned filmmaker Ousmane Sembene (Black Girl, Xala, Ceddo). Camp Thiaroye, his first feature in 11 years, cowritten and codirected by Thierno Faty Sow, recounts an incident that actually occurred in 1944. Returning from four years of European combat in the French army, Senegalese troops are sent to a transit camp, where they have to contend with substandard food and other indignities. An intellectual sergeant major (Ibrahima Sane) gets thrown out of a local bordello when he goes there for a drink; mistaken for an American soldier, he is arrested and beaten by American MPs, which provokes his men into kidnapping an American GI. Then when the Senegalese troops discover that they’re about to be cheated out of half of their back pay, they launch a revolt. Leisurely paced, with some talky stretches devoted to debates among the soldiers, this lengthy feature is neither a simple tract nor a loose, undisciplined fresco, but a novelistic (and often witty) treatment of a complex subject in which all the characters get their due. Sane is especially fine, but the other characters–including a mute and traumatized Senegalese survivor of Buchenwald and a sympathetic if naive white officer–are delineated with comparable depth.… Read more »