Daily Archives: October 18, 2002

Milestones

It’s been over a quarter of a century since I saw Robert Kramer and John Douglas’s epic 16-millimeter feature about the American counterculture (1975, 195 min.) at the New York Film Festivalfar too long ago for me to summon up a coherent account or opinion of it today (which is why, contrary to the Block Museum schedule, I won’t be introducing this rare screening). But at the very least, this highly ambitious political film on 60s communal lifestyles should be a provocative and revealing period piece. A radical independent influenced in part by Jacques Rivette, Kramer wound up living in Paris when his early films (In the Country, The Edge, Ice) had a much bigger impact there than in the U.S. He returned home on occasion to make some of his most memorable work, such as Route One (1989), though tragically his films are scarcely known here. The great French critic Serge Daney was especially taken with Milestones, calling it the anti-Nashville; this program is part of a series related to Daney and his work, which continues next weekend with several precious and rarely screened films. (JR)… Read more »

In Praise Of Love

Jean-Luc Godard’s best feature since Nouvelle Vague (1990) is in some respects as difficult as that film, though visually it’s stunning and unique even among Godard’s work. The first part, set in contemporary Paris, was shot in black-and-white 35-millimeter, while the second, set in Brittany two years earlier, is in floridly oversaturated color. A young man (Bruno Putzulu) interviews men and women for an undefined project called Eloge de l’Amour, which will involve three couples (young, adult, and old) experiencing four stages of love (meeting, physical passion, separation, and reconciliation). One young woman he spends time with is the granddaughter of a couple he’s met earlier, former members of the French resistance negotiating to sell their story to a Hollywood studio. As in his magnum opus, Histoire(s) du Cinema, Godard is centrally concerned with the ethics of true and false representation and with the lost promise of cinema, which leads to some anti-American reflections ranging from reasonable to over-the-top. This is a twilight film, dark and full of sorrow, yet lyrical and beautiful as well (2001). In French with subtitles. 94 min. (JR)… Read more »

Exam

Despite a mainstream thrust that suggests Hollywood in its conventional blandness, this first feature by writer-director Nasser Refaie has a prototypical Iranian art movie orientation. It’s a comedy about a crowd of young women waiting to take a university entrance exam that never strays outside its schoolyard locationa graceful tour de force that’s limited by a reluctance to move beyond predictable character types. Unfolding over 80 minutes of real time, it evokes the modernist style of The White Balloon, and the focus on women determined to receive higher education is mildly feministthough the propensity of recent Iranian features for staging all their action in exteriors is at least partially a consequence of censorship laws requiring women in film interiors to wear chadors, however implausible. The giggles and prankishness of many of the exam takers are refreshing, yet it’s symptomatic of the overall mildness that the liveliest moments ensue when someone’s pet monkey gets loose and climbs a tree. In Farsi with subtitles. 80 min. (JR)… Read more »