Daily Archives: September 1, 2001

The Curse Of The Jade Scorpion

As a rule, my favorite Woody Allen films are those select few that (a) warmly acknowledge Allen’s working-class roots, (b) steer clear of European influences, and (c) seek mainly to entertain. Manhattan Murder Mystery did the latter two wonderfully, and Broadway Danny Rose did all three, as does this charming throwaway, set in 1940. One thing I especially like about it, apart from the flavorsome 40s decor in color, is that it’s silly in much the same way that many small 40s comedies were. Allen is an insurance investigator and Helen Hunt an efficiency expert working for the same company; they hate each other with a passion — until they’re hypnotized during a nightclub act into not only loving each other madly but also stealing jewels whenever posthypnotic suggestions are delivered. Others in the cast include Dan Aykroyd, Elizabeth Berkley, Brian Markinson, Wallace Shawn, David Ogden Stiers, and Charlize Theron. 104 min. (JR)… Read more »

Films By Thierry De Mey And Daniele Wilmouth

Thierry De Mey’s dance film Rosas danst Rosas (1997, 57 min.), receiving its Chicago premiere, was shot in a Belgian building designed by Henry van de Velde. Curtain of Eyes, a striking black-and-white dance film (1997) composed for the camera by Daniele Wilmouth, is the product of a six-month collaboration with four Japanese dancers from Kyoto’s Saltimbanques butoh troupe. The dancers move in an abstract space, mainly in close-ups and medium shots, and Wilmouth’s textured imagery is every bit as detailed as the dancing. (JR)… Read more »

Haiku Tunnel

Josh Kornbluth codirected this comedy with his brother Jacob, cowrote it with the same brother and John Bellucci, and stars as an office temp who becomes an inept secretary when he winds up with a steadier job working for a demonic tax attorney. Some of the gags here are funny, but they aren’t executed effectively enough to score. 90 min. (JR)… Read more »

Hit And Runway

The directorial debut of writer, composer, and musician Christopher Livingston is a loosely autobiographical comedy about his relationship with his own screen-writing partner, on this film as well as othersgay stand-up comic and comedy writer Jaffe Cohen. Livingston is straight, but the comic bonding between his and Jaffe’s fictional counterparts, played respectively by Michael Parducci and Peter Jacobson, isn’t just about the mismatch of their sexual preferences; it’s also about the overall tension between their very different personalities. Not everything works here, but there are some pretty funny momentsincluding Hoyt Richards’s impersonation of Clint Eastwood, and Kerr Smith’s embodiment of a young actor with a passion for Jewish menand the overall tone is likable. With Judy Prescott. 108 min. (JR)… Read more »

The Vertical Ray Of The Sun

More plot heavy than The Scent of Green Papaya or Cyclo, this third feature by Tran Anh Hung concerns four siblings living in close proximity to each other in contemporary Vietnam. One sister is married to a novelist, another is married to a photographer, and the third and youngest (Tran Nu Yen-khe, the director’s wife and a prominent player in his films) shares an apartment with her younger brother. Their story is fairly conventional and not especially well told, though as usual Tran’s images are so sensual and beautiful that I was rarely bored or frustrated. In Vietnamese with subtitles. 112 min. (JR)… Read more »

Blackboard Jungle

One of the great transgressive moments in 50s Hollywood was Bill Haley’s Rock Around the Clock playing over the opening credits of this black-and-white melodrama (1955, 101 min.) about unruly boys in a slum high school. This was released a year before the movie Rock Around the Clock, and the fact that the earlier film was an MGM release only added to the punch. A crew-cut Glenn Ford, the squarest of teachers, tries to tame Vic Morrow and Paul Mazursky, among other hoods, and win over Sidney Poitier (in one of his best early roles). As Dave Kehr suggested in his original Reader capsule, the kids are better actors than the adults (who also include Anne Francis, Louis Calhern, and Richard Kiley). Writer-director Richard Brooks had a flair for sensationalism, and his adaptation of Evan Hunter’s novel is loads of fun as a consequence, but don’t expect much analysis or insight. (JR)… Read more »

Waterloo Bridge

The 1940 Mervyn LeRoy remake is much better known, but this early-sound weepie (1931, 81 min.), based on a play by Robert E. Sherwood, was the second feature of the great James Whale (Show Boat, Bride of Frankenstein). Mae Clarke is an American chorus girl who marries an officer in London during World War I; after he’s reported missing and his family rejects her, she drifts into prostitution. The film’s precode dialogue is said to be much saltier than that of LeRoy’s version, and Bette Davis appears in a small role. (JR)… Read more »