Daily Archives: October 8, 1993

29th Chicago International Film Festival: Mired in the Present

From the Chicago Reader (October 8 , 1993). — J.R.

Let’s start with the bad news, which also happens to be the good news. With the erosion of state funding virtually everywhere and the concomitant streamlining of many film festivals toward certifiable hits — basically what an audience already knows, or worse, what it thinks it knows — there isn’t a great deal of difference anymore between the lineups of most large international festivals, including Cannes, Berlin, Venice, Toronto, and even Chicago. By and large, the critics at Toronto last month, myself included, who thought it was an unusually good festival were those who hadn’t made it to the previous three big festivals.





Some films don’t make every list, of course. Luc Moullet, probably the most gifted comic filmmaker working in France, almost never seems to attract international interest, and I was disappointed to discover that his delightful Parpaillon, which I saw in Rotterdam, was passed over by Toronto, Chicago, and New York. The same goes for Robert Kramer’s Starting Place, which I saw in Locarno — a beautifully edited and moving personal documentary about contemporary Vietnam. I’m also sorry that Hou Hsiao-hsien’s The Puppetmaster and an intriguing American independent effort called Suture, both of which I saw in Toronto, are missing from the Chicago roster.… Read more »

The Age of Innocence

Those determined to avoid the Chicago Film Festival and Luis Buñuel‘s long-neglected The Young One (see Section One for more information on both) won’t go too far wrong with Martin Scorsese’s ambitious and sumptuous film version of Edith Wharton’s 1920 novel about New York society in the 1870s. It manages to be both personal and true to its source, though it never quite comes together. Incorporating chunks of Wharton’s socially knowing prose in the narration (regally spoken by Joanne Woodward), it tells the story of a young lawyer (Daniel Day-Lewis) who’s engaged to marry a debutante (Winona Ryder) but who falls in love with her married cousin (Michelle Pfeiffer), a somewhat disreputable countess, and never succeeds in doing very much about it. As beautifully mounted as this production is, Scorsese has a way of letting the decor take over, so that Wharton’s tale of societal constraints comes through only in fits and starts. It’s a noble failure, though, with plenty of compensations, including a fine secondary cast that includes Geraldine Chaplin, Mary Beth Hurt, Stuart Wilson, Miriam Margolyes, and Norman Lloyd. Norridge, Old Orchard, Webster Place, Ford City, Golf Mill, 900 N. Michigan.… Read more »

Bunuel’s Neglected Masterpiece

From the Chicago Reader (October 8, 1993). — J.R.


**** (Masterpiece)

Directed by Luis Buñuel

Written by “H.B. Addis” (Hugo Butler) and Buñuel

With Zachary Scott, Bernie Hamilton, Key Meersman, Crahan Denton, and Claudio Brook.

Let’s start with a dream scenario, a movie that might have been. What if Luis Buñuel had made a picture with an American producer, American screenwriter, and American actors during the height of the civil rights movement and set it in the rural south? What if the main character were a black jazz musician from the north fleeing from a lynching, falsely accused of raping a white woman? And, to make a still headier brew, what if Buñuel decided to work in the theme of Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, a recent best-seller — the deflowering of a young girl by a middle-aged man?

As a piece of exploitation, this hypothetical project fairly sizzles; yet in the hands of a poetic, corrosive, highly moral filmmaker like Buñuel, it could well transcend this category. Allowing for the strangeness that would naturally arise from a foreign director taking on such volatile American materials — indeed, a strangeness that might even enhance the freshness of his treatment — one could well anticipate the beauty and excitement such an encounter might produce.… Read more »