Daily Archives: April 1, 1997

Strictly Dishonorable

A rarely screened and reportedly faithful adaptation of a Preston Sturges play, directed by John Stahl in 1931, with Paul Lukas, Sidney Fox, and Lewis Stone.… Read more »

Nora Helmer

Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s shortened 1973 version of Ibsen’s A Doll’s Houseshortened to the extent that the heroine (Margit Carstensen) no longer leaves home at the end, a change Fassbinder defended as more realistic. As in Martha (also 1973), Carstensen seems to elicit a baroque mise en scene from Fassbinder; despite a bleached-out look from having been shot on video, it’s still an eyeful. (JR)… Read more »

Breakdown

Kathleen Quinlan is kidnapped in the southwest, and Kurt Russell, playing her yuppie husband, maniacally pursues the abductors. Jonathan Mostow directs from his own script (written with Sam Montgomery), and J.T. Walsh costars. At first this comes across as an atmospheric and efficient thriller that might have been a B film back in the 40s or 50s, and it’s certainly well crafted in terms of individual sequences. But plot and characterinitially spurred by class resentmentbecome less and less interesting or even relevant as stunts and action crowd them out. In the end the mean-spiritedness of today’s generic action picturein which most people are viewed as scumbags and the only kind of conflict worth following is the grudge matchreigns supreme, and story logic counts for nothing. If you harbor homicidal fantasies you might get a chuckle or two out of this; otherwise it might just make you sick. (JR)… Read more »

Message To Love: The Isle Of Wight Festival

A reported 600,000 people turned up at the 1970 Isle of Wight rock festival (only about a tenth of whom were paying customers), making this a bigger event than either Woodstock or Altamont. Murray Lerner’s belatedly edited 1995 BBC documentary of that event, synthesizing some of the countercultural exhilaration of Woodstock with some of the political disillusionment of Gimme Shelter, is less dramatic than either of those films, but given the awesome lineup of pop stars, it’s still quite a show: Jimi Hendrix, the Doors, the Who, Free, Taste, Tiny Tim, John Sebastian, Ten Years After, Donovan, the Moody Blues, Kris Kristofferson, Joni Mitchell, Miles Davis, Leonard Cohen, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Joan Baez, and Jethro Tull. This is a movie constructed for shorter attention spans, so numbers tend to be brief or curtailed, and the clash between idealistic-anarchistic and capitalistic agendas at the festival, though absorbing, is never spelled out as clearly as it might have been. But it’s nevertheless a precious and exciting historical document. 120 min. (JR)… Read more »

Fleeing From Evil To God

The earliest and by far the worst feature by Mohsen Makhmalbaf that I’ve seen (1984)though it’s a long way from the least interesting and, as far as I’m aware, the only one in ‘Scope. A muddled religious and metaphysical parable about the temptations of evil as played out among five men on a remote island, it has little plot or drama, but its sincerity is never in doubt. Not previously screened outside of Iran, it was recently recut by the director and subtitled. Two of the lead actors, Majid Majidi and Mohammad Kasebi, are also featured in Boycott, Makhmalbaf’s subsequent film (see separate listing). (JR)… Read more »

Boycott

Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s fourth feature (1985, though recently reedited by him) was reportedly the first to be widely noticed. It’s a highly energetic and troubled account of a leftist guerrilla’s arrest in Iran prior to the Islamic revolution and his experience in prisona story that has many points in common with Makhmalbaf’s own during the same period (though he was much younger). Surrealistic in some spots, didactic in others, the film records Makhmalbaf’s disenchantment with politics as well as his growing confidence as a craftsman; an early shootout and a car chase following a prison escape could both come out of a Hollywood thriller. With Majid Majidi, Mohammad Kasebi, and Zohre Sarmadi. (JR)… Read more »

The Age Of Miracles

Anita Yuen plays a determined mother and deal maker who strikes a bargain with Death, trading ten years of her life for the survival of her sick second child. Peter Chan directed this 1996 Hong Kong comedy. With Roy Chiao and Alan Tam.… Read more »

The Daytrippers

An enjoyable, serviceable first feature (1996), writer-director Greg Mottola’s independent comedy follows a quarrelsome Long Island family into Manhattan to get to the bottom of the marital infidelity of the husband of one of the daughters; in tow are the parents and the daughter’s younger sister and her boyfriend. Fleet and entertaining as narrative but inconsequential, this was coproduced by Steven Soderbergh and shot in 16 days. With Stanley Tucci, Hope Davis, Parker Posey, Pat McNamara, Anne Meara, Liev Schreiber, Campbell Scott, and Marcia Gay Harden. R, 87 min. (JR)… Read more »

Films By Dan And Paul Dinello

A program of eight films by either or both of the DinellosDan and his nephew Paul. Their latest, Shock Asylum (1996), directed by both Dinellos and starring Paul, is a hyperbolic, paranoid look at psychological evaluations in black and white that periodically calls to mind the frenetic early efforts of the Kuchar brothers. Also on the program are the somewhat less coherent Beyond the Door (1995); Dan Dinello and Sharon Sandusky’s neat Really Dead (1993); and many others that I haven’t seen: Dan and Paul’s How to Be Popular (1994); Paul’s Jesus (1994), Giant Ladybug (1994), and Skarves (1995); and Dan’s Saturnalia (1979). (JR)… Read more »

Her Majesty, Love

A rarely screened Warners musical (1931) set in old Berlin, perhaps most notable for the participation of Leon Errol and W.C. Fields, who shows off his juggling skills. William Dieterle directed; starring Marilyn Miller and Ben Lyon. 75 min. (JR)… Read more »

Fire On The Mountain

The strength of this 1995 documentary by Beth and George Gage, a couple based in Telluride, about members of the remarkable World War II Tenth Mountain Division is the presence of the men themselvesnot only as expert skiers and mountain climbers over the past half century, but as courageous soldiers and gifted, humane storytellers. The film mixes archival footage with present-day interviews and imparts a great deal of information about the historical importance of these individuals, who virtually invented snowmobiles, motorized toboggans, and Vibram-soled hiking boots while training on Mount Rainier. (JR)… Read more »

Inventing The Abbotts

More impressive for its script and cast than for its handling of place and period, this fresh coming-of-age story about two working-class brothers (Joaquin Phoenix and Billy Crudup) and three wealthy sisters (Liv Tyler, Jennifer Connelly, and Joanna Going) in small-town Illinois during the late 50s is a beautifully constructed narrative. And despite some awkwardness in Pat O’Connor’s direction when it comes to establishing a world wider than that of the characters, the sincerity and craft of the actorsespecially Phoenix, Tyler, and Kathy Baker as the boys’ widowed motherput it across. With Will Patton; adapted by Ken Hixon from a Sue Miller story. (JR)… Read more »

The Passion Of Joan Of Arc

Carl Dreyer’s last silent, the greatest of all Joan of Arc films. Lost for half a century, the 1928 original was rediscovered in a Norwegian mental asylum in the 80s (other prints had perished in a warehouse fire, and the two versions subsequently circulated consisted of outtakes). Joan is played by stage actress Renee Falconetti, and though hers is one of the key performances in the history of movies, she never made another film. (Antonin Artaud also appears in a memorable cameo.) Dreyer’s radical approach to constructing space and the slow intensity of his mobile style make this difficult in the sense that, like all the greatest films, it reinvents the world from the ground up. It’s also painful in a way that all Dreyer’s tragedies are, but it will continue to live long after most commercial movies have vanished from memory. With subtitled French intertitles. 114 min. (JR)… Read more »

Mother

All of writer-director-actor Albert Brooks’s comedy features are good, but this one, about a twice-divorced science fiction writer moving back in with his mother (Debbie Reynolds) so he can figure out why he has problems with women, is probably the most accessible and best realized (1996). For all the seriousness of the subject matter, Brooks and his customary cowriter Monica Johnson make it pretty hilarious. Brooks’s comedies, like Woody Allen’s, are basically multifaceted reflections on neurosis, but the probing goes a lot deeper, and the human landscape is usually more generously furnished. Understanding isn’t limited to the lead characterthere’s every bit as much insight into the characters of Reynolds and Rob Morrow (the hero’s kid brother, a sports agent). A must-see. (JR)… Read more »

Looking For Richard

A 1996 documentary by a movie star (Al Pacino) about his own entitlement as a movie starspecifically, his sense of his own nobility for wanting to bring a production of Richard III to the people while wearing a baseball cap backward. Just to show you what a regular guy he is, he plays Richard with and without a Bronx accent and speaks to people on the street, not to mention Vanessa Redgrave, John Gielgud, Kenneth Branagh, and lots of unidentified Shakespeare scholars; we also get shards of the play in various locations featuring Winona Ryder, Aidan Quinn, Kevin Spacey, and Estelle Parsons. This runs 118 minutes, but it felt like six or seven hours. (JR)… Read more »