Monthly Archives: January 1997

A Single Girl

Just as she’s about to start a job with room service at a luxury hotel in Paris, a young woman (Virginie Ledoyen) tells her boyfriend that she’s pregnant and wants to keep their child. They quarrel but arrange to meet an hour later; the film then follows her at work for that hour in real time. This segment of Benoit Jacquot’s compelling 1995 feature, written with Jerome Beaujour, is a stunning demonstration of moral and existential suspense in relation to duration, much like Agnes Varda’s 1961 Cleo From 5 to 7. Later the excitement dissipates somewhat, and when the film abandons real time to make room for an epilogue it becomes ordinary. But until then it’s an essential piece of filmmakingnot simply as a stylistic exercise, but as a fascinating look at a hotel in operation. (JR)… Read more »

Freeway

This squalid little noir by writer-director Matthew Bright (who scripted Guncrazy) about an abused teenager on the run (Reese Witherspoon) trips over itself whenever it tries to persuade us it’s retelling the story of Little Red Riding Hoodan effort that begins with cartoons behind the credits. But in spirit, if not in letter, it often resembles a gritty Warners crime movie of the 30s, and it held my interest in spite of its excesses. The secondary cast is reasonably flavorsome: Kiefer Sutherland, Amanda Plummer, Dan Hedaya, Michael Weiss, and Brooke Shields. (JR)… Read more »

Touch

Someone should try to persuade Paul Schrader to stay away from comedy; he has no flair for it whatsoever. Still, this curious piece of satire about a faith healer (Skeet Ulrich), based on an Elmore Leonard novel, isn’t devoid of interest; it’s both sexy and unpredictable, and the eclectic cast aloneBridget Fonda, Lolita Davidovich, Tom Arnold, Paul Mazursky, Christopher Walkenmakes it worth checking out. (JR)… Read more »

Microcosmos

A technically adroit but aesthetically offensive and philosophically dubious look at the world of insects by French biologists Claude Nuridsany and Marie Perennou, given an intolerable wall-to-wall score by Bruno Coulais and a minimal English voice-over by Kristin Scott Thomas to match the French narration. Making this 1996 film purportedly took 15 years of research, 2 years of designing the camera and lighting equipment, 3 years of shooting, and half a year of editing; how much time the filmmakers spent thinking about what they were doing isn’t noted. The footage is often fascinating, but when it comes to anthropomorphism I prefer the Disney live-action adventures. Made in the 70s and never exported, Michel Fano’s French nature documentary La Territoire des Autreswith its sure sense of soundputs this film to shame. 77 min. (JR)… Read more »

Last Year At Marienbad

This radical experiment in film form by director Alain Resnais and screenwriter Alain Robbe-Grillet was a surprising commercial success in 1961, even in the U.S., and it’s been a rallying point for the possibilities of formal filmmaking ever since. A highly seductive parable about seduction, it’s set in and around a baroque European chateau/hotel, where the nameless hero (Giorgio Albertazzi) tries to persuade the nameless heroine (Delphine Seyrig) that they met the previous year. Shot by Sacha Vierny in otherworldly black-and-white ‘Scope, it oscillates ambiguously between past, present, and various conditional tenses, mixing memory and fantasy, fear and desire. The overall tone is poker-faced parody of lush Hollywood melodrama, yet the film’s dreamlike cadences, frozen tableaux, and distilled surrealist poetry are too eerie, too terrifying even, to be shaken off as camp. For all its notoriety, this masterpiece among masterpieces has never really received its due. In French with subtitles. 93 min. (JR)… Read more »