Monthly Archives: November 1992

Home Alone 2: Lost In New York

The inevitable sequel (1992) to what the PR flacks described as the most successful comedy and the third-highest-grossing film in motion picture history brings back actors Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, John Heard, and Catherine O’Hara, producer-writer John Hughes, and director Chris Columbus. The action is transferred from suburbia to New York City, but otherwise the filmmakers stick like glue to the formula of the original: a little boy from a well-to-do family left on his own (last time at home, this time in New York City) is threatened by low-life working-class crooks whom he repeatedly foils and tortures, and upscale property values prevail. The new cast members include Brenda Fricker, Tim Curry, Rob Schneider, Dana Ivey, and Eddie Bracken. PG, 120 min. (JR)… Read more »

Waterland

A curious Faulknerian tragedy involving a high school history teacher (Jeremy Irons) in Pittsburgh and the stories he tells his class about his family’s threadbare past in the English fens. At the center of his recollections are his feebleminded brother and the sweetheart (Sinead Cusack) the teacher wound up marrying. Not all of it works, but the handling of time is often bold and original, and the performances are quite affecting. Irons, who characteristically dominates, reveals here, as in Dead Ringers and Reversal of Fortune, that he’s more of an auteur than either his writer or director. Directed by Stephen Gyllenhaal from a script by Peter Prince based on a novel by Graham Swift; with Grant Warnock, Lena Headey, Callum Dixon, Ethan Hawke, and Sean McGuire (1992). (JR)… Read more »

Traces Of Red

A better-than-average murder mystery, though as with many of its print equivalents, the surprises make a sizable dent in one’s ability to suspend disbelief. James Belushi stars as a homicide detective around Palm Beach who finds himselfalong with several womenin serious trouble after he testifies against a gangster in court; Tony Goldwyn plays his partner, William Russ his brother (a senatorial candidate), and Lorraine Bracco his girlfriend, a recent widow. Andy Wolk directed, tolerably well, from a script by Jim Piddock. (JR)… Read more »

A Tale Of Springtime

After his Six Moral Tales and Comedies and Proverbs, Eric Rohmer launched a new cycle of films, Tales of the Four Seasons, with this characteristically masterful and low-key talkfest (1989). A young doctor of philosophy (Anne Teyssedre) spends a few days with a new friend (Florence Darel), a musician whose father (Hugues Quester) is living with a student she detests (Eloise Bennett). What seems to be slowly building toward a seduction of the philosophy teacher by the musician’s father actually has more to do with the development of the friendship between the teacher and the musician, and Rohmer unravels the plot coolly and authoritativelyas usual, like the warp and woof of an 18th-century novella. This takes some time to get going, but steadily picks up interest and momentum. In French with subtitles. 112 min. (JR)… Read more »

Fellini’s Roma

An imaginative, highly personal travelogue and essay film by Federico Fellini (1972), one of his best works of this period. It features the filmmaker roaming around the Eternal City with his crew, musing about the recent and distant historical past, running into old chums and acquaintances (such as Anna Magnani and Gore Vidal), and occasionally indulging some flamboyant conceits for their own sake (e.g., the memorable ecclesiastical fashion show). As usual with Fellini, especially from the 70s on, spectacle tends to be everything. In Italian with subtitles. 128 min. (JR)… Read more »

Rock Hudson’s Home Movies

This brilliant hour-long video transferred to film (1992) by independent filmmaker Mark Rappaport (The Scenic Route) is in effect a subversive piece of film criticism that departs from the fictional conceit of Hudson himself (represented through clips from his films and by actor Eric Farr) speaking from beyond the grave about his homosexuality and what this did or didn’t have to do with his countless heterosexual screen roles. Part of what emerges, to hilarious effect, is the extraordinary amount of male cruising and number of barbed allusions to Hudson’s gayness that his movies of the 50s and 60s contain; what also emerges is the sexual ideology of the period. Though much of this essential work is extremely funny, it is also very much about death in relation to movies. 63 min. (JR)… Read more »

Reflections In A Golden Eye

John Huston directed this 1967 adaptation (by Chapman Mortimer and Gladys Hill) of Carson McCullers’s tortured novel about an army major at a peacetime camp in Georgia who’s a repressed homosexual (Marlon Brando), his adulterous wife (Elizabeth Taylor), and various other unhappy characters and gothic traumas. Originally shot (by Aldo Tonti) in gold-tinted hues that suggested caterpillar gutsa gimmicky effect that was widely applauded at the time for artistic originality, though its aesthetic function was dubiousthe film now circulates in more conventional color. Either you like this movie a lot or you run screaming for the exit; I find it rough going. With Julie Harris and Brian Keith. (JR)… Read more »

The Proud Ones

Yves Allegret’s French melodrama Les orgueilleux, shot on location in Mexico, was made in 1953, the year after The Wages of Fear, and the existential roots of the plot and the use of Latin American squalor as a French view of hell recall some of the earlier film’s pessimistic atmosphere. The storyadapted by Jean Aurenche and Pierre Bost from Jean-Paul Sartre’s L’amour redempteur, which was set in Chinainvolves the redemptive love that gradually develops between a stranded recent widow (Michele Morgan) and a drunken derelict and former doctor (Gerard Philipe) during a meningitis epidemic in a hot and sleazy coastal town. Alas, director Allegret is no Clouzot: the pace of this picture limps, and the ending is far from persuasive. Obviously it means something more to Martin Scorsese, who, impressed by its drenched eroticism, its symbolism (e.g., a contaminated crucifix boiled in water), and its hothouse performances, brought it back into circulation in the early 90s (it originally went under the title of The Proud and the Beautiful). Certainly not devoid of interest, but no masterpiece. (JR)… Read more »

The Only Game In Town

George Stevens’s last film (1969), arguably one of his lesser efforts, is Frank D. Gilroy’s adaptation of his own play, set in Las Vegas but filmed in Paris, about a romance between a chorus girl (Elizabeth Taylor) and a gambler (Warren Beatty). It seems that the only game in town isn’t gambling but marriage; it also seems that Stevens was interested in recapturing some of the charm of his 30s and 40s comedies, but the conceit doesn’t take flight. With Charles Braswell and Hank Henry. (JR)… Read more »

Mindwalk

This 1990 feature by physicist and author Fritjof Capra and his brother Bernt, who directed as well as cowrote the script with Floyd Byars, is limited as filmmaking and storytelling (and has a typically dull score by Philip Glass), but it’s fascinating and compelling as conversation. It basically consists of a discussion about the state of the world among a troubled physicist (Liv Ullmann), a recently defeated U.S. politician (Sam Waterston), and an expatriate American poet (John Heard) as they walk around the historic island of Mont-Saint-Michel off the coast of France, a setting that winds up contributing a great deal to the discussion. Most of the talk comes from the physicist and involves a holistic approach to world problemssystems theory and an escape from the mechanistic perceptions of Descartes into a vision of interdependency and interconnectedness; the film does an able job in making difficult scientific concepts intelligible. Provocative and absorbing in spite of its limitations, this is worth a look if you want to learn more about Greenpeace arguments and perceptions (1990). (JR)… Read more »

The Man Who Was Sherlock Holmes

Karl Hartl’s Nazi-era (1937) light entertainment stars the most popular German male star at the time (Hans Albers) as a man mistaken for Sherlock Holmes; he, along with a Watson-like sidekick (Heinz Ruhmann), becomes involved in a mystery that leads them to the 1936 World Exposition in Paris. (JR)… Read more »

Malcolm X

Spike Lee’s 1992 epic about the powerful black leader, adapted by Arnold Perl and Lee from Malcolm X’s autobiography (written with Alex Haley), benefits from a lively lead performance by the miscast Denzel Washington but doesn’t come within light years of the book, one of the greatest American autobiographies. It’s also sad to see that James Baldwin’s contributions to the original script (the late Perl was his collaborator) have been plundered with so little respect that his name was removed from the credits by his estate’s executor. The necessity of creating a pious official (i.e., middle-class) portrait squeezes out too many aspects of Malcolm’s varied experience and mercurial intelligence; even at 201 minutes, this often feels like a skim job. But if you’re too lazy to read the book, you probably should see this. With Angela Bassett, Albert Hall, Al Freeman Jr., Delroy Lindo, and Lee in a supporting role. (JR)… Read more »

Kikuchi

Minimalist and highly formal in its unorthodox use of sound and color, extremely dry and brittle in its comedy, Kenchi Iwamoto’s first feature follows the stupefyingly empty existence of a lonely and repressed young laundry worker (Jiro Yoshimura) who spends his nights following and spying on a supermarket checkout girl. The results are arguably more admirable than enjoyable, though Iwamoto is clearly someone to watch (1990). (JR)… Read more »

Jennifer Eight

Another serial-killer thriller, this one set mainly in the wilds of northern California, that pits an obsessive cop from LA (Andy Garcia) against a psycho who seems to have it in for blind women (including Uma Thurman, whom the cop is dating). No film with Kathy Baker in even a secondary role is entirely dismissable, but this gets less and less tenable as it proceeds, and a hammy, over-the-top performance by John Malkovich just about puts it out of its misery. Bruce Robinson (Withnail & I, How to Get Ahead in Advertising) wrote and directed, and perhaps he had something on his mind at the outset; if so, it all leaks out by the end, leaving one with hard-to-accept characters and a plot full of holes. With Lance Henriksen, Graham Beckel, and Kevin Conway; Conrad Hall is the cinematographer (1992). (JR)… Read more »

Gas Food Lodging

Two teenage girls (Fairuza Balk and Ione Skye) growing up in Laramie, New Mexico, with their waitress mother (Brooke Adams) provide the theme of this sometimes touching but uneven independent feature by Allison Anders (who cowrote and codirected Border Radio), which she adapted from Richard Peck’s novel Don’t Look and It Won’t Hurt. Though the characters and plot details are quite different from The Last Picture Show and Texasville, the film aims for some of the same emotional effects and ambienceand reveals Peter Bogdanovich’s strength in dealing with such material. Anders’s direction of actors fluctuates wildly from powerful and indelible to awkward and unconvincing; she’s most assured creating clips from imaginary black-and-white Mexican movies seen by the narrator heroine. This film certainly has its strong moments, but it has a hard time sustaining them. With James Brolin, Robert Knepper, David Lansbury, Jacob Vargas, and Donovan Leitch (1992). (JR)… Read more »