Daily Archives: August 28, 1992

Government Lies

From the August 28, 1992 Chicago Reader; reprinted in my collection Placing Movies. — J.R.

THE PANAMA DECEPTION

*** (A must-see)

Directed by Barbara Trent

Written by David Kasper

Narrated by Elizabeth Montgomery.

DEEP COVER

*** (A must-see)

Directed by Bill Duke

Written by Henry Bean and Michael Tolkin

With Larry Fishburne, Jeff Goldblum, Victoria Dillard, Charles Martin Smith, Sydney Lassick, Clarence Williams III, Gregory Sierra, and Roger Guenveur Smith.

I wonder how many people under 35 know that one of the most frequent taunts hurled at President Lyndon Baines Johnson during antiwar demonstrations at the height of the Vietnam war was, “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?” Johnson did considerably more than any other U.S. president of this century to turn the civil rights movement into law — even going so far as to appropriate the movement’s theme song, “We Shall Overcome,” for a speech to Congress. But because of his behavior regarding nonwhites overseas, especially in Southeast Asia, a considerable part of the youth of the late 60s regarded him as a mass murderer, and told him so on every possible occasion. It seems plausible that Johnson’s decision not to seek reelection in 1968, announced only four days before Martin Luther King was assassinated, had more than a little to do with the repeated sting of that relentless chant.… Read more »

Unforgiven

Clint Eastwood directs his first and most accomplished western in years from a rather elaborate script by David Webb Peoples (who cowrote Blade Runner). Like Bird, this movie seems at times to equate dark cinematography with artistry (albeit with stunning use of locations in Canada and California and beautifully composed results), and as with White Hunter, Black Heart, its view of reality depends almost entirely on countercliches, and their implied critique of the machismo of earlier Eastwood movies. Eastwood plays a reformed alcoholic killer, now a widower, father, and failing hog farmer in Kansas, who gets lured into a bounty hunt by a brash kid (Jaimz Woolvett) and persuades an old partner (Morgan Freeman) to join them. Other important characters include two prostitutes (Frances Fisher and Anna Thomson), a gunman-turned-sheriff (Gene Hackman, rather like Karl Malden in One-Eyed Jacks), an English bounty hunter (Richard Harris), and a dime-novel writer (Saul Rubinek) who mythologizes the west. As a moral reconsideration of the role of violence in previous Eastwood films, this is strong and sure, and characters who play against genre expectations give the film a provocative, smoldering aftertaste. The only limitation, really, is that the picture hasn’t much dramatic urgency apart from its revisionist context.… Read more »