Monthly Archives: April 1993

The Robe

The first film in CinemaScope (a process spearheaded by Fox), though it was also shot simultaneously in a normal screen ratio. This pious claptrap (1953) about the Roman centurion (Richard Burton) who presided over Christ’s crucifixion has Jean Simmons and one of Victor Mature’s more likable performances. The unmemorable Henry Koster directed; with Michael Rennie, Richard Boone, Dawn Addams, and Dean Jagger. 135 min. (JR)… Read more »

The Queen

Frank Simon’s cinema-verite documentary chronicling the Miss All-American Camp Beauty Pageant held in New York City in February 1967 is more interesting in some ways for its period flavoras a zoom-happy, all-over-the-place 60s documentthan for its depiction of the drag event, though both aspects have some value. (JR)… Read more »

Olivier Olivier

You might think Agnieszka Holland (Europa Europa) has double titles on the brain, but at least on this project, which dates back to 1984, there’s an eerie logic to the impulse. The original inspiration comes from a French news story, though The Return of Martin Guerre may have exerted some influence as well: a nine-year-old boy named Olivier (Emmanuel Morozof) mysteriously disappears, and after exhaustively searching for the boy, his father (Francois Cluzet) leaves his mother (Brigitte Rouan) and sister for a job in Africa. Six years later, the police inspector (Jean-Francois Stevenin) originally assigned to the case comes across a teenage boy (Gregoire Colin) who may be Olivier, and introduces him to the family, who greet him with mixed reactions: the parents want to believe he’s their son, but the sister is unconvinced. Holland is always an interesting director, and this arresting and disturbing tale commands some attention, but the impact of the story is blunted by irrelevant asides concerning telekinesis and more loose ends than you can shake a stick at (1991). (JR)… Read more »

The Oberwald Mystery

This is an experimental film in the original rather than fashionable sense of that terma 1980 adaptation by Michelangelo Antonioni of Jean Cocteau’s play The Eagle Has Two Heads that reunites the filmmaker with Monica Vitti in the starring role as a widowed queen who falls in love with an anarchist poet sent to assassinate her. What makes this experimental is neither the play nor the performances, but the fact that Antonioni shot it in color video (later transferred to 35-millimeter), regarding the medium not as television but as a new kind of cinematography, and associating each character with a different color as part of his visual exploration. The choice of the Cocteau play seems more arbitrary than inevitable, which raises the form-versus-content issue even more than in most Antonioni features. The results are singular, to say the least. In Italian with subtitles. 128 min. (JR)… Read more »

My New Gun

This independent feature by Stacy Cochran about suburban glibness and the erotic lure of guns starts off with some satirical promise, but before long just about everything of interestincluding the quirky humoris drained away and replaced by arbitrary plot mechanics. With Diane Lane, James LeGros, Tess Harper, Bruce Altman, Maddie Corman, Bill Raymond, and Stephen Collins (1992). (JR)… Read more »

Map Of The Human Heart

A love story unfolding between an Eskimo (Jason Scott Lee) and a half-breed (Anne Parillaud) from 1931 to 1965 is what passes for a subject in this unfocused, condescending, and corny 1993 feature. Vincent Ward (What Dreams May Come), directing a script he authored with Louis Nowra, delivers attractive settings, inept storytelling, and noble but doomed intentions. Patrick Bergin and Ben Mendelsohn costar, and John Cusack and Jeanne Moreau are around for cameos. R, 109 min. (JR)… Read more »

Leolo

A conclusive demonstration that it’s possible to speak French, be obsessed with excretion, vomit, masturbation, obesity, and broken noses, treat the viewer to glimpses of a dead dog, dead flies, and an abused cat, and still not have an ounce of poetry in your soul. But if you’re sufficiently cowed by the relentless will to poetry of French Canadian filmmaker Jean-Claude Lauzon (Night Zoo), you may wind up acceding to his self-definition if only through exhaustion; once you’ve learned to expect the unexpected and unpleasant you won’t find much to keep you interested in this 1992 look at the fantasies of a 12-year-old boy (Maxime Collin) as recalled by his offscreen narrating adult counterpart (Gilbert Sicotte). The fantasies include the boy and his grandfather trying to murder each other and the boy’s descent from a Sicilian tomato sprayed with sperm. Maybe if you’re in the right frame of mind you’ll find the spirited ugliness and cruelty enjoyable for its audacity; I couldn’t wait for the damn thing to be over. (JR)… Read more »

The Lady Without Camelias

Perhaps the most unjustly neglected of Michelangelo Antonioni’s early features, La Signora Senza Camelie (1953) is a caustic Cinderella story about a Milanese shop clerk (Lucia Bose) who briefly becomes a glamorous movie star. One of the cruelest and most accurate portraits of studio filmmaking and the Italian movie world that we have, it’s informed by a visually and emotionally complex mise en scene that juggles background with foreground elements in a choreographic style recalling Welles at times. Though it’s only Antonioni’s third feature, and its episodic structure necessitates a somewhat awkward expositional method, this is mature filmmaking that leaves an indelible aftertaste. In Italian with subtitles. 105 min. (JR)… Read more »

Indian Summer

A group of former fellow campers return to Camp Tamakwa (a site in Ontario’s Algonquin Provincial Park where the movie was shot) for a reunion organized by the camp’s director (Alan Arkin), in a thoughtfully written and capably acted and directed comedy-drama by Mike Binder (Crossing the Bridge). This has practically none of the arty trappings of Bodies, Rest & Motion, but it deals fairly persuasively with the same generation of adults in their late 20s, and while nothing especially profound emerges it’s a pretty good piece of workentertaining and, thanks to the setting, pretty to look at. With Matt Craven, Diane Lane, Bill Paxton, Elizabeth Perkins, Kevin Pollack, Vincent Spano, Julie Warner, Kimberly Williams, and Sam Raimi, who contributes some funny moments of physical comedy as the camp’s handyman. (JR)… Read more »

Indecent Proposal

A big smelly hunk of overripe cheese from the queen and king of crassness and indecent proposals, producer Sherry Lansing (The Accused, Black Rain) and director Adrian Lyne (9<4 Weeks, Jacob’s Ladder), whose previous joint effort was Fatal Attraction. This time their story is a noncomic variation on Honeymoon in Vegas and a companion piece to Pretty Woman that similarly asks the audience to flirt with the virtues of prostitution: at a Las Vegas casino, billionaire Robert Redford offers a million dollars to spend the night with Demi Moore, who’s happily married to Woody Harrelson; after their obligatory refusal, the couple cave in and agree, and their marriage starts to come apart. With a shamelessly cliched script by Amy Holden Jones (based on a novel by Jack Engelhard) that includes a speech plagiarized from Citizen Kane, the results are only for those who can take fare like Valley of the Dolls with a straight face and want to see Redford play Jay Gatsby again. John Barry’s music, incidentally, is vintage glop all the way; with Oliver Platt and Seymour Cassel. (JR)… Read more »

Gun N’ Rose

An extremely violent gangster film from Hong Kong, directed by Ford Clarence, with heavy doses of betrayal and, you guessed it, vengeance. With Alan Tang, Andy Lau, Simon Yam, and Bowie Lam (1992). (JR)… Read more »

Green On Thursdays

A strong documentary (1993) by Dean Bushala and Deirdre Heaslip about gay bashing in Chicago, alternately terrifying and empowering in its matter-of-fact instructiveness about the extent of the problem and the response of local activistsincluding the Pink Angels street patrol, the Coalition Against Bashing, and Horizons’ antiviolence counseling and court advocacy program. Following many examples of violence against gay men and lesbians, the film makes effective use of several local talents: two effective videos by Charles Christensen, a song by the duo Ellen Rosner and Camille, and black-and-white photographs by Allen Nepomuceno, Paul Vosdic, and Paul Roesch. The title refers to the 19th-century practice of gay men wearing green ties on Thursdays to identify themselves to one another; it also raises the more current issue of how much being out means being a target for a sociopath. The film deals only glancingly with the reasons for homophobic violence, but has a lot to say about the possible responses to it. (JR)… Read more »

Dave

Presidential look-alike Kevin Kline is asked to pose as the president by chief of staff Frank Langella in this dumb but likable Capra-esque comedy directed by Ivan Reitman from a script by Gary Ross. The movie remystifies as much as demystifies presidential politics, but an overall mood of sweetness may help one to forgive the archaic and childish aspects of the would-be analysis, which splits everyone between angels and devils. Also starring Sigourney Weaver, as the first lady. With Kevin Dunn, Ben Kingsley, and Ving Rhames, and in cameos a host of Washingtonians and media personalities, including Senator Paul Simon, appellate judge Abner Mikva, Larry King, and Oliver Stone. (JR)… Read more »

The Dark Half

A disappointing though not uninteresting adaptation by George A. Romero (the Dead trilogy, Martin, Monkey Shines) of a Stephen King novel about a writer (Timothy Hutton) whose alternate pseudonymous writing personality assumes flesh when he tries to phase it out. The Jekyll and Hyde theme has been a central concern of Romero’s in the past, but its exploration here produces little of the moral and metaphysical tension found in the writer-director’s best work. Neither the characters nor the echoes (including special effects) of Hitchcock’s The Birds convey the necessary conviction, and one sadly wonders if after the undeserved box-office failure of his Monkey Shines Romero cares much about his work. It’s a genuine pity, because this movie holds plenty of promise around its edgesincluding an interesting but underdeveloped character played by Julie Harris. With Amy Madigan and Michael Rooker. (JR)… Read more »

Car Wash

Not quite a disco musical, this sure feels like one in terms of bounce, verve, and energy. It’s basically a comedy-drama built around a string of vignettes related to a day in the life of a Los Angeles car wash, with a very good, largely nonwhite cast featuring Franklyn Ajaye (a particular delight), Antonio Fargas, Bill Duke, Ivan Dixon, Richard Pryor, Tracy Reed, and Garrett Morris; Sully Boyar plays the white boss. The gags tend to be much more concerned with questions of class than one is accustomed to in American moviesand the contrapuntal punctuations of the disco DJ are positively Altman-esque. Michael Schultz (Cooley High) directed a screenplay by Joel Schumacher, and if you compare this movie to Schumacher’s somewhat similar D.C. Cab, made seven years later, you may conclude that Schumacher’s is the dominant creative voice. Critics seemed to like this less than audiences; personally I had a ball (1976). (JR)… Read more »