Monthly Archives: July 2003

From The Other Side

What gives Chantal Akerman’s video documentary about illegal Mexican aliens in the U.S. so much bite as well as poignancy is her personal investment in the material. It’s felt in her haunted and highly evocative lingering over landscapes (an Akerman specialty), as well as in her subtitled interviews with Mexicans in Spanish and a few Americans in English. These are capped by her own highly moving monologue in French. A major work that creeps up on you gradually (2002). 99 min. (JR)… Read more »

Stone Reader

This compelling 2002 documentary by Mark Moskowitz, an avid fiction reader who makes a living shooting political commercials, is a kind of literary detective story, though paradoxically the piece of literature at its center remains elusive and opaque to the end. In his late teens Moskowitz bought a copy of Dow Mossman’s novel, The Stones of Summer (1972), after seeing an enthusiastic review in the New York Times Book Review; when he finally got around to reading it 25 years later he was blown away but frustrated to discover that Mossman had never been heard from again. This launched him on a lengthy quest to find the author and learn why some ambitious novelists produce only one book, a question pondered in interviews with critic Leslie Fiedler, editor Robert Gottlieb, author and teacher Frank Conroy, Mossman’s former agent, and many others. We finally learn much more about Moskowitz than about Mossman, and more about Mossman than about his novel, but Moskowitz’s passion for books is irresistible. 128 min. Facets Cinematheque.… Read more »

Dracula: Pages From a Virgin’s Diary

The highly gifted Winnipeg independent Guy Maddin takes on his first commissioned feature–an adaptation of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s production of Dracula–and succeeds brilliantly, making it his own while offering what may be the most faithful screen version to date of Bram Stoker’s novel. Shot mainly as a black-and-white silent, with music by Mahler, selected sound effects, and expressive use of red for blood and green for dollar bills, this kinetic fever dream is every bit as enticing as Maddin’s Archangel, Careful, and The Heart of the World. Don’t let the high-toned elements scare you off: this 2002 feature is a sensual delight, a highly erotic bacchanal with hilarious asides about male sexual paranoia in relation to race and ethnicity. 75 min. Music Box.… Read more »

Global Discoveries on DVD (2nd column)

From Cinema Scope No. 15 (Summer 2003). Needless to say, a good deal of this is dated now, and I’ve mainly left this in its original form for historical purposes, apart from deleting a few errors. (At least most of the links still work.) — J.R.

It was a tip from filmmaker Françoise Romand that led me to search out Agnès Varda’s “DVD store” on Paris’s Rue Daguerre early last February, with Australian film critic Adrian Martin along for the adventure. Not knowing quite what to expect, we found ourselves at Varda’s storefront editing studio, with an ad in the window for the video and DVD of her wonderful 2000 documentary Les glaneurs et la glaneuse  (The Gleaners and I) and a note on the door to ring the doorbell across the street if no one was around. Feeling as if we were in a small town rather than on a street in Montparnasse, we were greeted by Varda at the front door of her house, and a moment later led back across the street by her, where she proceeded to demonstrate the special features of her DVD.

gleaners

I hasten to add that both The Gleaners and I and its amiable hour-long 2002 sequel Deux ans après (Two Years Later) are readily available from Zeitgeist in North America, but without the extra features —- mainly, I suspect, because Zeitgeist hasn’t access to the sort of state funding that has made Varda’s deluxe edition possible.Read more »