Monthly Archives: November 1992

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 »

Flirting

Part two of Australian writer-director John Duigan’s trilogy about teenage life in the 60s (which commenced with 1987’s The Year My Voice Broke) follows Danny Embling (Noah Taylor) to a ritzy boarding school, where he becomes involved with Thandiwe Adjewa (Thandie Newton), a beautiful and precocious black girl from Uganda, at a nearby girls’ school. Not only worthy of its fine predecessor, this tender, perceptive, and gorgeously acted memory piece (1992) may even surpass it in subtlety, feeling, and depth of characterization. (Nicole Kidman is also very fine as one of the black girl’s classmates.) A winner of many prizes in Australia, this lovely feature deserves them all. (JR)… Read more »

A Few Good Men

I’m usually a sucker for courtroom dramas, but Rob Reiner’s highly mechanical filming by numbers of Aaron Sorkin’s adaptation of his own cliched and fatuous Broadway play kept putting me to sleep. A glib rookie navy lawyer (Tom Cruise) who has grown up in the shadow of his celebrated navy-lawyer father is assigned to defend two marines against charges of murdering a member of their platoon; Demi Moore plays a member of his defense team, and Jack Nicholsonwho gets costar billing for walking through three short scenesplays the hard-nosed colonel ultimately responsible for the death. With Kevin Bacon and Kiefer Sutherland (1992). (JR)… Read more »

The Efficiency Expert

A winsome little Australian comedy (originally known as Spotswood) set in the mid-60s, this evokes the optimism that typified some of the cheerily humanist British comedies of that period, and ends up alternately charming and tepid. An uptight efficiency expert (Anthony Hopkins) gradually becomes humanized while investigating an inefficient but endearing family-run shoe factory for its benign but naive owner (Alwyn Kurts). There are various romantic subplots, and the storytelling is fairly leisurely and digressive even without them. More or less aiming to nuzzle at your shins like a cocker spaniel, it’s a movie that expects a certain amount of affectionate indulgence. Directed by Mark Joffe from a script by Max Dann and Andrew Knight; with Ben Mendelsohn, Toni Collette, Dan Wyllie, Bruno Lawrence, and Rebecca Rigg. (JR)… Read more »

The Distinguished Gentleman

Query: How do you make a satire about contemporary corruption in the U.S. Congress, much of it based on real-life abuses, with a former speechwriter for Walter Mondale (executive producer Marty Kaplan) as cowriter, and somehow ensure that it never intersects with reality? Answer: Cast Eddie Murphy in the lead. Murphy plays a con artist who scams his way into the Senate, then (you guessed it) belatedly develops a conscience; the filmmakers treat all the characters, not to mention the audience, as sitcom puppets. Jonathan Lynn (My Cousin Vinny) directed, and the costars are Lane Smith, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Joe Don Baker, Victoria Rowell, Grant Shaud, Kevin McCarthy, and Charles Dutton (1992). (JR)… Read more »

Close To Eden

Also known as Urga, this 1991 Mongolian-Russian-French coproduction by Nikita Mikhalkov (Slave of Love, Dark Eyes) involves the bittersweet incursions of civilization and the modern world on a young Mongolian who raises sheep and horses, as well as his friendship with a Russian truck driver. Visually striking, especially for its uses of landscape, this often recalls Nicholas Ray’s wonderful film about Eskimos, The Savage Innocents, though it isn’t nearly as good. (JR)… Read more »

Bright Eyes

Stuart Marshall’s three-part videotape made for Britain’s Channel 4 examines the historical and social factors influencing current reactions to AIDS and homosexuality. To be shown with Stasiu Kybartas’s video short Danny, a personal documentary about an AIDS victim.… Read more »