Daily Archives: October 14, 1994

The Importance of Being Sarcastic [SATANTANGO]

From the Chicago Reader (October 14, 1994). Bela Tarr, who arrived in Zagreb yesterday to join Abel Ferrara, myself, and others (including many students and staff members from Film.Factory) at Tanja Vrvilo’s tenth annual Movie Mutations event, will be showing Satantango here today and then discussing it. — J.R.

**** SATANTANGO

(Masterpiece)

Directed by Bela Tarr

Written by Tarr and Laszlo Krasznahorkai

With Mihaly Vig, Putyi Horvath, Erika Bok, Peter Berling, Miklos B. Szekely, Laszlo Fe Lugossy, Eva Almasi Albert, Alfred Jaray, Erzsebet Gaal, Janos Derzsi, and Iren Szajki.

If great films invent their own rules, reinventing some of the standards of film criticism in the process, Bela Tarr’s Satantango surely belongs in their company. Showing Sunday as part of the Chicago Film Festival, this very dark Hungarian black comedy has more than a few tricks and paradoxes up its sleeve. Shot in black and white, with a running time of just under seven hours (it’s designed to be shown with two short intermissions), it boasts a decrepit, squalid rural setting enveloped in constant rain and mud and a cast of about a dozen greedy, small-minded characters, none of whom has any remotely redeeming qualities. Yet over two separate viewings it has provided me with more pleasure, excitement, and even hope than any other new picture I’ve seen this year.… Read more »

I Like It Like That

This stunning debut is a first feature by writer-director Darnell Martin, and the first movie by a woman who grew up in a ghetto to be produced by a major studio. A raucous comedy-drama about a volatile Latino couple trying to raise their three kids and stay out of trouble–with the world and each other–in a Bronx ghetto, it manages a truce between Hollywood pizzazz and authenticity while positively jumping with energy (though it runs out of a little steam before the end). The charismatic heroine, played by Lauren Velez–a mulatto, like Martin–goes after a job with a recording executive (Griffin Dunne) after her husband (Jon Seda) tries to steal a stereo during a blackout and winds up in jail; among the other characters are her brother (Jesse Borrego), who’s a transvestite botanica owner, and her downstairs neighbor and worst enemy (Lisa Vidal), who’s an unwed mother trying to wangle away her husband. (Rita Moreno also does a delightful turn as her disapproving mother-in-law.) While keeping up a frenetic pace, the movie manages to speak thoughtfully about parenting, marital sex problems, jealousy, gossip, lotteries, record promotion, inner-city crime, and homophobia. It’s not common to find so much bombast and wisdom coexisting, but from the evidence offered here, Darnell Martin is an uncommon talent–offering an eyeful as well as an earful.… Read more »

Cinecopia Part 2

The lineup for the second week of the Chicago International Film Festival looks at least as good as the first, in some respects even better. I’m sorry to report that two of the best movies scheduled for last week, Olivier Assayas’s Cold Water and Luchino Visconti’s Bellissima, were canceled after the Reader went to press. Both were replaced by an Australian movie, The Sum of Us, that we weren’t able to review.

As we go to press this week, the word from the festival is that no further changes are anticipated, but if you want to be on the safe side, call the festival to be sure. (Last-minute changes and related screwups, I should add, are a bugaboo at virtually all film festivals, and though Chicago has had more than its fair share of them in the past, they’ve diminished in recent years.)

My own recommendations for the week, in rough order of preference, are Satantango (reviewed at length elsewhere in this section), The Leopard, Red, The Red Lotus Society, The Tarnished Angels, The Seventh Continent, Dear Diary, Through the Olive Trees, The Innocent, Dallas Doll, The Silences of the Palace, When Pigs Fly, The Troubles We’ve Seen, Ryaba, My Chicken, Family, The Serpent and the Rainbow, Too Much Happiness, and Paradjanov.… Read more »