Monthly Archives: March 1993

Eurotrip

Now I know why more Americans don’t travel to Europe; judging from this dumbed-down teen comedy, directed and written by the people responsible for The Cat in the Hat, it’s sexual panic about all the perverts over there. A high school senior (Scott Mechlowicz) belatedly discovers that his German pen pal (Jessica Boehrs) is female and sexy. Having recently alienated her, he flies to Europe with a buddy (Jacob Pitts) to make amends. Their farcical odyssey through London, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, Rome, and points east seems intentionally slapdash and stupid, but when one of them referred to Europe as a country, I wasn’t sure if it was meant as a joke or not. Even so, I laughed once or twice. R, 90 min. (JR)… Read more »

Shorts 2: Where You Stand

I’ve seen only one of these eight shorts, but Tsai Ming-liang’s 23-minute The Skywalk Is Gone (2002) is probably better than most full-length features showing at the festival. A minimalist sequel to his 2001 What Time Is It There?, it features the same two characters in approximately the same Taipei setting where they last metonly this time they don’t meet. As usual with Tsai, less is, if not necessarily more, still a great deal. I’d love to see Nanni Moretti’s The Last Customer, with the same running time, about the closing of a family-run pharmacy. Also screening: Gemma Carrington’s Coming Home (UK, 7 min.), Mervi Junkkonen’s Barbeiros (Finland, 12 min.), Julio Robeldo’s The Trumouse Show (Spain, 6 min.), Robias Bechtloff’s To Impress the Girl Next Door (Germany, 7 min.), Ezra Krybus and Matthew Miller’s The School (Canada, 13 min.), and Annemarie Jacir’s Like Twenty Impossibles (U.S./Palestine, 17 min.). (JR)… Read more »

Father And Son

Alexander Sokurov conceived this 2003 drama as a companion piece to his 1997 Mother and Son; it has more plot than that picture but little of its painterly intensity. The story highlights the intimate bonds between a father and his adult son, both military men who share an apartment in an unnamed seaside city. Sokurov disavows any homoerotic intent, but it’s hard to attach any other theme to the lyrical shots of intertwined male bodies at the beginning (accompanied by heavy breathing), or protracted close-ups throughout (conspicuously few of which involve the son’s girlfriend). For mannerist obsessiveness of this kind, I prefer Beau travail. In Russian with subtitles. 84 min. (JR)… Read more »

What Alice Found

An 18-year-old from New Hampshire (Emily Grace), heading south to stay with a friend in Floria, loses her car and money but is rescued by a kindly middle-aged couple (Judith Ivey and Bill Raymond) who offer her a lift in their RV. She gradually discovers that the wife is a hooker and her husband helps to drum up trade, and after a while the teenager decides to turn some tricks herself. This low-budget digital video by writer-director A. Dean Bell looks pretty blotchy, and in terms of exposition and character development it’s hit-or-miss. But it’s worth seeing if only for Ivey, whose wonderful performance single-handedly legitimizes the film’s provocative commentary on prostitution. 96 min. (JR)… Read more »

Swing Kids

Rebellious German teenagers who like big-band jazz trying to resist social pressures to join the Hitler Youth in 1939 Hamburg is the subject of this corny but sincere weeper written by Jonathan Marc Feldman, directed by Thomas Carter, and shot mainly in Prague. Needless to say, all the German kids are played (pretty well, as it happens) by Americans, and if it seems that kitsch of this kind is a less than ideal way to teach history, it’s still infinitely preferable to Reagan’s Bitburg pieties. With Robert Sean Leonard, Christian Bale, Frank Whaley, and Kenneth Branagh. (JR)… Read more »

Night And Day

One of the constants of Chantal Akerman’s remarkable work is a powerful if heavy painterly style that practically precludes narrative flow even when she’s telling stories. Even at her best, as in Jeanne Dielman and The Man With a Suitcase, the only kind of character development she seems able to articulate with conviction is a gradual descent into madness. But the relatively unneurotic Night and Day (1991) strikes me as her most successful work in years. Julie (Guilaine Londez), the heroine, makes love to Jack (Thomas Langmann) in their small flat by day and wanders through Paris at night while he drives a cabuntil she meets Joseph (Francois Negret) and guiltlessly launches a secret nighttime affair with him. Akerman brings a lyricism to the material that makes it sing like a musical. Whether the camera is gracefully traversing Jack and Julie’s flat or slowly retreating from Julie and Joseph across bustling traffic while he recounts the things he loves about Paris, Akerman seems to have discovered both a musical rhythm for her mise en scene and a deftness in integrating her score that eluded her in her literal musical Window Shopping. This movie isn’t for everyoneno Akerman feature isbut if you care about her work you shouldn’t miss it.… Read more »

Nemesis

In 2020, after Japan and the U.S. have joined forces politically and economically, an undercover cop (Olivier Gruner) specializing in robot-generated crimes has to undergo reconstructive surgery before investigating his ex-lover and fellow operative on a tropical island. Albert Pyun directed this 1993 feature. 95 min.… Read more »

Half The Kingdom

Considering certain Orthodox Jewish practices (e.g., a daily prayer recited by men that thanks God for not making them female), Jewish feminism may be a contradiction in terms. Francine Zuckerman’s hour-long Canadian talking-head documentary seems quite aware of this possibility, and her film is interesting not so much because it provides conclusive answers, but because it offers several intelligent and determined Jewish womenincluding a rabbi, a journalist, a novelist, an activist, a professor, an experimental educator, and an Israeli Knesset membera forum for describing some of their own approaches to the problem (1990). (JR)… Read more »

Watch It

The title refers to an interminable practical-joke game played by the four preppy leadsthree Northwestern graduates (Jon Tenney, John G. McGinley, Tom Sizemore) and the cousin of one of them (Peter Gallagher), all of whom share a house in the Chicago suburbsin a smart-ass, conventionally misogynist locker-room comedy that I found tiresome in spite of the better-than-average cast, which also includes Suzy Amis, Cynthia Stevenson, and Lili Taylor. Tom Flynn wrote and directed this first feature; Stanley Clarke is in charge of the music. (JR)… Read more »

Untamed Heart

The heart, a weak one, belongs to Christian Slater, playing a reclusive and eccentric busboy at a Minneapolis coffee shop, but the movie mainly belongs to Marisa Tomei (My Cousin Vinny), a waitress at the same establishment who falls for him after he saves her from being raped. It’s a sure sign of how good Tomei is that she can even occasionally do something with Tom Sierchio’s lachrymose script; the usually wonderful Rosie Perez, stuck with an uninteresting part, is less lucky. Tony Bill (Five Corners, Crazy People) directed, and Kyle Secor, Willie Garson, Gary Groomes, and James Cada costar. (JR)… Read more »

Rose Marie

The 1954 ‘Scope version of the Canadian Mountie operetta, with Howard Keel and Ann Blyth replacing Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald, who starred in the 1936 original, and Fernando Lamas completing the triangle. Busby Berkeley handled the choreography, and the underrated Mervyn LeRoy directed; what they yield may be hokum, but it’s hokum with a certain zip and polish, apart from the stagy sets. With Bert Lahr, Marjorie Main, and Ray Collins. (JR)… Read more »

Riff-raff

Ken Loach, perhaps the last unreconstructed English realist (Kes, Land and Freedom), takes a funky, intermittently comic, and generally uncompromisingly grim look at a group of men on a London building crew, placing particular emphasis on a young man from Glasgow and his affair with an aspiring singer (1991). Using actors experienced in construction, Loach shot on an actual building site complete with rats. Written by the late Bill Jesse, a former laborer himself, this film has a gritty authenticity about English working-class life that makes even Mike Leigh seem like a bit of an artificer. With Robert Carlyle and Emer McCourt. Recommended. (JR)… Read more »

The Opposite Sex And How To Live With Them

A fairly threadbare Boston singles comedy with tired stand-up routines and one pretty funny Ted Koppel parody. With Arye Gross, Courteney Cox, Kevin Pollak, and Julie Brown; written by Noah Stern and directed by Matthew Meshekoff. (JR)… Read more »

Married To It

Three New York couplesa young Wall Street broker (Robert Sean Leonard) and a child psychologist (Mary Stuart Masterson), a toy manufacturer (Ron Silver) and his upper-crust second wife (Cybill Shepherd), and a welfare worker (Beau Bridges) and his politically committed wife (Stockard Channing)wind up on a school committee helping to prepare a pageant on the theme of the 60s. Janet Kovalcik’s plot-heavy and programmatic screenplay bristles with implausible premises, and the deadly Arthur Hiller is not the sort of director who can make up the difference with style. Each couple experiences a crisis that is resolved Hollywood-style, and the fact that these six people quickly overcome their differences in age, class, and politics to become steadfast friends remains hard to swallow. But some of the performancesespecially by Channing and Bridgesgive this a modicum of feeling, at least until the climactic 60s pageant. (JR)… Read more »

Mad Dog And Glory

John McNaughton (Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer) directed this picture from a predictable script by Richard Price about a police photographer (Robert De Niro at his most nebbishy) inadvertently saving the life of a gangster (Bill Murray at his oddball best), who rewards him by sending over one of his barmaids (Uma Thurman) as a gift for a week. This is stronger in terms of characters (male ones, that is) than in terms of story or mise en scene, but the actorsincluding David Caruso, Mike Starr, Kathy Baker, and McNaughton regular Tom Towleskeep this pretty watchable. Martin Scorsese coproduced, and none too well apparently: the ending had to be reshot after disappointing previews. (JR)… Read more »