Daily Archives: August 16, 2002

Elvis On Tour

Following the design of Woodstock, Pierre Adidge and Robert Abel shot and edited this 1972 documentary in a multiscreen format, so don’t expect it to look like much on video. 93 min. (JR)… Read more »

The Beast Of The City

Despite the fact that this opens with a message from Hoover (Herbert, not J. Edgar) urging us to glorify policemen rather than gangsters, this 1932 talkie is said to be better than average, as a police chief (Walter Huston) sets out to battle organized crime. Adapted by John Lee Mahin from a W.R. Burnett story, it was directed by Charles Brabin (The Mask of Fu Manchu), and certainly its cast is exceptional: Jean Harlow, Wallace Ford, Jean Hersholt, Tully Marshall, and 11-year-old Mickey Rooney. 87 min. (JR)… Read more »

The World According to John Coltrane

I was lucky enough to see John Coltrane’s classic quartet several times in the 60s and was always amazed by his total relaxation amid the cascading wails and yodeling fast runs that came out of his saxophone. He, pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Jimmy Garrison, and drummer Elvin Jones were completely absorbed, listening to one another so intently that one couldn’t help but join them, even in a noisy nightclub. This 1992 documentary by writer-director Robert Palmer, codirected by Toby Byron, starts off with familiar talk about family and church, some of it voiced over scratchy and blotchy TV performance footage, so I was prepared for the worst. Then comes a lively sequence that cuts between still photographs in sync with “Giant Steps,” and from then on this is pure pleasure. Byron and Palmer are among the few jazz documentarians with the good sense to let us listen to the music for reasonably long stretches without interruption; they present an entire fine Coltrane solo on “So What” with Miles Davis, a relatively stiff rendition of “My Favorite Things” on TV followed by a much better version in concert, a complete performance of “Impressions” with Eric Dolphy on alto sax and a fleet solo by Tyner, an equally full version of “Alabama” punctuated by talking heads, and two healthy chunks of “Naima” that exemplify Coltrane’s later and freer style.… Read more »

Possession

Two literary scholars (Aaron Eckhart and Gwyneth Paltrow) doing research in England on separate Victorian poets jointly discover that these poets–one of them married (Jeremy Northam), the other a lesbian (Jennifer Ehle) with a live-in lover–may have had a secret affair. While chasing after clues, the scholars develop a possible relationship of their own. Oscillating between past and present, this adaptation of A.S. Byatt’s prizewinning novel sounds like it could be too precious for words, but I was wooed by its sexy romanticism all the way through the mysterious and beautiful coda. Director and cowriter Neil LaBute has a mixed record in my book, but if I’m reading the signals correctly, here he’s serving the material rather than playing auteur, and his two cowriters–David Henry Hwang (the author of M. Butterfly) and Laura Jones (who scripted An Angel at My Table)–are unusually skillful. Reportedly the biggest departure from the novel is making Eckhart’s character an American; Paltrow handles the manner of an English academic with grace and aplomb. 102 min. Century 12 and CineArts 6, Crown Village 18, Esquire, Lake, Webster Place.… Read more »