Monthly Archives: January 1993

The Little Fugitive

One of the first independent American features to gain an international reputation, this 1953 effort by Morris Engel, Ruth Orkin, and Ray Ashley, about a little boy running away to Coney Island mistakenly believing he’s killed his brother, won the top prize at the Venice film festival and paved the way for many subsequent low-budget features; today it’s probably most interesting as a fragrant period piece. With Richie Andrusco, Rickie Brewster, Winifred Cushing, and Will Lee. (JR)… Read more »

In The Soup

The main reason to see Alexandre Rockwell’s flaky, independent black-and-white comedy (1992) about an aspiring filmmaker (Steve Buscemi) on New York’s Lower East Sidea movie one feels was made every few months during the late 60sis John Cassavetes veteran Seymour Cassel, playing a petty crook with a heart of gold who suddenly appears to the hero like a fairy godfather (no pun intended, despite his compulsive displays of physical affection) to serve as his producer. The movie seems conceived according to the joint emblems of Jim Jarmusch (who appears in a cameo, along with Carol Kane) and Cassavetesrather like the first episode in Jarmusch’s Night on Earth, which used Gena Rowlands as an emissary from Cassavetes’s world. Here Cassel seems to be a variation on the noble/foolish hero played by Ben Gazzara in Cassavetes’s The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, but you certainly don’t have to know this source to respond to Cassel’s enormous funds of charm and charisma. (There’s also a wonderful performance by Sully Boyer as one of the crook’s incidental victims.) With Jennifer Beals, Pat Moya, and Will Patton. R, 90 min. (JR)… Read more »

Damage

Upscale, decadent, obsessional sex between a member of the British parliament (Jeremy Irons) and the fiancee (Juliette Binoche) of his journalist son (Rupert Graves) heads the bill of fare in this lugubrious and rather contrived 1992 adaptation of Josephine Hart’s novel. Though the actors are intermittently interesting to watchand Miranda Richardson (as the hero’s wife) and Leslie Caron (as the heroine’s mother) are even better than thatthe story eventually capsizes into cheap melodrama. Because this whole project seems detached at times to the point of indifferenceno one ever seems to be having any fun, including the filmmakerseven one’s clinical interest eventually begins to evaporate. Louis Malle directed a script by David Hare; with Ian Bannen and Peter Stormare. R, 111 min. (JR)… Read more »

The Cemetery Club

The resourceful Bill Duke, best known in the past as an actor (Car Wash, American Gigolo) and as a director of black pictures (A Rage in Harlem, Deep Cover), turns his directorial hand toward Broadway-matinee white materiala comedy adapted by Ivan Menchell from his play about three Jewish widows in Pittsburgh (Ellen Burstyn, Olympia Dukakis, and Diane Ladd) who meet at their husbands’ graves. Duke’s sensitive handling of actors remains so acute that he and his able cast (which also includes Danny Aiello, Lainie Kazan, and Christina Ricci) periodically transcend their humdrum material. (Burstyn in particular is very strong, and when she embarks on a romance with a Jewish widower played by Aiello the movie moves into high gear.) It’s also worth noting that the Jewish milieu is adroitly and persuasively sketched in without being overplayed in the customary Broadway-matinee manner. (JR)… Read more »

The Argyle Secrets

A remarkable noir effort by the neglected but formidable writer-director Cyril Endfield (Try and Get Me!, Zulu), shot on a B-minus budget in six days and running just over an hour, crams so much hallucinatory plot into one 24-hour period that the results have some of the hysteria as well as the dreamy drift of subsequent apocalyptic thrillers like Kiss Me Deadly. William Gargan plays a reporter who goes chasing after an album with an argyle cover that implicates Americans who collaborated with Nazis during the war, and all sorts of gruff types go chasing after him as a result. Most impressive here, apart from Endfield’s signature pessimism about human weaknesses, are the ingenious visual and temporal strategies used to condense the narrative materialeverything from a dripping faucet to signify the death of one character to the parsimonious use of voice-over imagery. (JR)… Read more »

Amazing Grace

Amos Gutman’s Israeli feature about the unconsummated love between two men (Sharon Alexander and Gal Hoyberger) from Tel Aviv, one of whom is HIV-positive. Serious and thoughtful, if not very energetic, it won first prize at the 1992 Jerusalem film festival. (JR)… Read more »

Alive

Directed by Frank Marshall (Arachnophobia) from a script by John Patrick Shanley (Joe Versus the Volcano), this adventure movie is based on the true story of the ten-week ordeal of survivors of a 1972 plane crash in the Andes. (Ultimately they survived by eating their dead companions.) There are a few good action sequences here, but one has to endure the long stretches between them, and the picture’s sense of character is so thin that one’s interest in the eventual outcome remains mainly academic. John Malkovich appears briefly and uncredited in a prologue and epilogue; the principal actors are Ethan Hawke, Vincent Spano, and Josh Hamilton. (JR)… Read more »