Daily Archives: April 1, 1998

Six O’clock News

While raising his son in Boston, Ross McElwee (Sherman’s March) contemplates the state of the world as implied by human disasters on the six o’clock news, chases down some of the victims, and occasionally gets them to ruminate on-camera. This 1996 film has some absorbing bits—including two segments with McElwee’s former teacher and friend Charleen (who’s graced all his major films to date) and another with a Korean millionaire in the deep south who’s feeling his way into a new marriage while trying to get over the murder of his previous wife—but it often comes across as willful autobiography predicated on the autobiographer finding new material. As always, McElwee gets a certain mileage out of his bemused, laconic persona, but the other people’s stories carry most of the interest. (JR)… Read more »

The Delta

Ira Sachs wrote and directed this stylistically captivating, subtly nuanced, and structurally unpredictable 1996 independent feature. Like Spike Lee… Read more »

Sliding Doors

This romantic comedy by writer-director Peter Howitt is built around the intriguing narrative premise of exploring all the things that might have ensued if a young woman in London (Gwyneth Paltrow) who’s just lost her job at a PR firm hadn’t missed her train. Through parallel editing that Howitt makes surprisingly easy to follow, two disparate story lines unfold in parallel universes. Unfortunately, once the freshness of the concept wears off, the same premise starts to feel mechanical and willful. With John Hannah, John Lynch, Jeanne Tripplehorn, and Zara Turner. (JR)… Read more »

La Seconda Volta

A university professor in Turin (Nanni Moretti) has a chance meeting with the woman who tried to kill him 12 years earlier in a terrorist attack. Mimmo Calopresti directed this 1996 Italian feature, which will be shown on video without subtitles.… Read more »

Timothy Leary’s Dead

The memorable swan song of former Harvard psychology professor, LSD guru, and political mischief maker Timothy Leary, launched when he discovered he had incurable cancer in mid-1995. This documentary by Paul Davids, cowritten with Todd Easton Mills, comprises his cheerful last rites, including his plan to have his brain frozen after death in the hope that it might get transplanted some day. Deliberately shocking in spots, gleefully irreverent, often downright sensible, this is a fitting and fairly entertaining final gesture from a revolutionary charlatan/visionary who occasionally gave evidence of having thoughts. Worth checking out, and the musicby the Moody Blues, Jimmie Rodgers, and othersisn’t bad either. (JR)… Read more »

Prince Of Foxes

In order to pay some of his bills for his own film production of Othello, Orson Welles costarred as Cesare Borgia in this black-and-white 1949 costume epic, filmed on location in Italy and starring Tyrone Power. Pretty nice to look at anyway, thanks to Leon Shamroy’s cinematography. Directed by Henry King and adapted by Milton Krims from Samuel Shellabarger’s novel; with Wanda Hendrix, Everett Sloane, and Katina Paxinou. (JR)… Read more »

Species Ii

A sequel to the 1995 SF chiller about a deadly artificial woman (Natasha Henstridge) created with the help of extraterrestrials. This follow-up costars Justin Lazard as an astronaut who accidentally becomes infected by a male alien on Mars and brings his deadly gook back to earth. The possessed astronaut immediately begins impregnating women, all of whom immediately give birth to mutants. Meanwhile, a genetics expert (Marg Helgenberger) from the first movie has created a supposedly peaceful artificial woman (Henstridge again) who’s enlisted to help track down the astronaut. Most of this is silly, dim-witted stuff, but a few of the shocks carry some of the crude power of Jack Arnold’s low-budget horror films of the 50s. Directed by Peter Medak from a script by Chris Brancato; with Michael Madsen, Mykelti Williamson, James Cromwell, and George Dzundza. (JR)… Read more »

The Bugs Bunny Film Festival: Fest Of The Best

Two amiable but far from definitive programs of Warner Brothers cartoons, tagged respectively Fest of the Best and Taz Gone Looney and containing 15 cartoons each. It seems criminal to include only one item by Tex Avery (A Wild Hare, 1940), the virtual inventor of Bugs Bunny, and nothing at all by Frank Tashlin, and it’s certainly regrettable to have none of Greg Ford’s recent witty and critical addenda to the canon. One can similarly question the decision to highlight the least interesting creature in the Warners menagerie, the Tasmanian Devil (the animated equivalent of Sylvester Stallone) over Foghorn Leghorn (a character worthy of Preston Sturges) and the Road Runner (Chuck Jones’s greatest conceptual principle), who are accorded only one cartoon apiece. But there are still plenty of classics here, especially Jones’s Duck Amuck, What’s Opera, Doc?, and One Froggy Evening, not to mention the latter’s belated sequel (receiving its Chicago premiere), two Oscar winners, and the first appearances of Bugs Bunny, Tweety Pie, the Road Runner, and even Pete Puma (who never appeared again). If you’re over ten, I’d recommend not seeing the two programs consecutively, and if you have to opt for just one, I’d suggest Fest of the Best, which includes the Avery, ten Chuck Jones items, three by Friz Freleng, and one by Bob Clampett.… Read more »

Tears Of A Clown

An expert ladies man in Harlem who’s riddled with financial woes (Andre Blake) sets about teaching his technique to his brother (Mekhi Phifer), an upstanding journalist who has less luck with women. The premise periodically threatens to become slick and misogynistic, but this fairly serious 1997 independent comedy, written, produced, and directed by Mandel Holland, manages to wind up both modest and likable. With Michele Morgan and Tangi Miller. (JR)… Read more »

Staging Life In China: Contemporary Reality In New Chinese Cinema

An illustrated lecture by Chris Berry, lecturer in cinema studies at La Trobe University in Melbourne, and one of the best scholars we have of contemporary Chinese cinema. Berry will emphasize independent film and video that shows contemporary Chinese reality and explain how it differs from the period allegories directed by such filmmakers as Chen Kaige and Zhang Yimou. (JR)… Read more »

Mon Homme

Writer-director Bertrand Blier, a specialist in politically incorrect sex comedies, offers us a prostitute with a heart of gold (Anouk Grinberg) who takes in a homeless tramp (Gerard Lanvin), offers him food and sex, and invites him to become her pimp. He accepts and winds up wooing a manicurist (Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi) to turn her into a prostitute as well, until he gets arrested for pimping. There are further developments in this 1996 feature, and even such familiar faces as Sabine Azema, Mathieu Kassovitz, and Jean-Pierre Leaud turn up briefly, but I found it increasingly difficult to stay interested. Barry White’s offscreen songs make the tedium a little more pleasant. (JR)… Read more »

Don’t Look Back

D.A. Pennebaker’s 1967 record of Bob Dylan’s 1965 English tour is a genuine blast from the past, evoking the 60s like few other documents; Dylan’s relentless heaping of scorn on the mainstream press, before the coercive tentacles of creative management made such things virtually impossible, is especially telling. But I’m entirely with Andrew Sarris when he writes, Don’t Look Back makes me want to fill in on Dylan’s recordings, but not Pennebaker’s movies; the raw cinema verite look bears fruit only when its subject does, and as with Truth or Dare (1991), the pretense of confidentiality is merely that. But the music is great, and the film would be memorable for its goofy, syncopated opening sequence alone (a quirky illustration of Subterranean Homesick Blues). With appearances by Joan Baez (Dylan’s steady at the time), Donovan, Allen Ginsberg, Dylan’s manager Albert Grossman, and Alan Price. 96 min. (JR)… Read more »