Daily Archives: October 1, 2001

K-pax

A man who claims to be from a remote planet named K-Pax (Kevin Spacey) winds up in a New York psychiatric hospital, where he’s treated by a dedicated if troubled shrink (Jeff Bridges), and the two do interesting things for each other. As storytelling this held me throughout, integrating elements of both SF and psychological thrillers without succumbing to the strictures of either or quelling their sometimes contradictory impulses. On the other hand, this is the kind of story that starts coming apart as soon as you think about it afterward (though it has a little more staying power as a poetic idea, even if you hate it). Both actors are so good that one might easily overlook the Pollyannaish subplot, in which the purported alien brings enlightenment to his hospital warda seductive development only if you’re willing to generalize about psychiatric patients. Director Iain Softley previously turned out a good cyberthriller (Hackers) and then translated late Henry James into soft-core porn (The Wings of the Dove); his work here is equally stylish if superficial. Screenwriter Charles Leavitt adapted a novel by Gene Brewer; with Mary McCormack and Alfre Woodard. 120 min. (JR)… Read more »

The Wide Blue Road

With all due respect to the late Pauline Kael, who celebrated Gillo Pontecorvo as a political filmmaker (The Battle of Algiers, Burn!), and to Jonathan Demme and Dustin Hoffman, who have now resurrected as well as restored the first of his five features, I’m not convinced that he’s any sort of master. He may not deserve the scorn Jacques Rivette heaped on his second feature, Kapo (similar to the contempt of some American cinephiles for Stanley Kramer), but this 1957 color feature about a struggling fisherman off the Dalmatian coast who snares his fish with illegal explosives doesn’t show much subtlety or nuance. It does, however, have the Italian-born Yves Montand, who keeps the movie alive when several other elementsincluding a miscast Alida Valli as his wife and the often clunky script and directionperiodically threaten to kill it. 90 min. (JR)… Read more »

Life And Debt

Stephanie Black’s eye-opening 2001 documentary focuses on how the International Monetary Fund has devastated Jamaica’s agriculture and industry, but it also powerfully illustrates what globalization has been doing to underdeveloped countries around the world. An ideal companion to No Logo, Naomi Klein’s bible of the antiglobalization movement, the film shows in depressing detail how Jamaica’s independence from British rule in the early 60s only ripened it for new kinds of exploitation. The narration, adapted by Jamaica Kincaid from her 1988 book A Small Place and read by Belinda Becker, alternates with interviewees ranging from former prime minister Michael Manley to IMF deputy director Stanley Fischer; we also get a generous sampling of Jamaican music. 86 min. (JR)… Read more »

Picturing A Metropolis: Nyc Unveiled

This sounds like an interesting program: 96 minutes of rarely seen short films shot in New York, from the silent era and later, by filmmakers ranging from Billy Bitzer, Edwin S. Porter, and Robert Flaherty to Jay Leyda, Lewis Jacobs, and Rudy Burckhardt. (JR)… Read more »

The Reckless Moment

Here’s an opportunity to see the noir melodrama recently remade as The Deep End; to my mind this 1949 feature directed by Max Ophuls is a much better film in almost every respect. As Dave Kehr once wrote in these pages, It’s one of the director’s most perverse stories of doomed love, with Joan Bennett as a bored middle-class housewife . . . and James Mason as an engagingly exotic Irishman who attempts to blackmail her. Naturally, they feel a certain attraction. Adapted by Henry Garson and R.W. Soderborg from Elizabeth Sanxay Holding’s novel The Blank Wall, this 82-minute thriller gets wonderful performances from both leads and makes interesting use of certain elementssuch as a black maid and a Christmas settingdiscarded in the remake. (JR)… Read more »