Daily Archives: August 1, 2003

Bachelorman

A self-styled ladies man (David DeLuise) meets his match in a single woman (Missi Pyle) who moves into the apartment next door. This 2003 indie comedy by John Putch isn’t very funny, but it’s surprisingly likable for the sheer gusto and flamboyance of Putch, DeLuise, and costar Rodney Lee Conover. Don’t go expecting too much and you might be charmed. Conover wrote the script with Jeff Hause and Dave Hines. R, 90 min. (JR)… Read more »

The Secret Lives Of Dentists

Craig Lucas’s adaptation of the Jane Smiley novella The Age of Griefthe interior monologue of a repressed dentist who’s fairly sure his wife, also a dentist, is carrying on an affairsat on the shelf for over a decade after the death of the slated director, Norman Rene, but Alan Rudolph has done a fine job with it. I haven’t read the novella, but reportedly the script’s main alteration is expanding a minor character (played by Denis Leary), a spiky trumpet player and patient of the hero, into a major fantasy projection so that his neo-Joycean monologue becomes a dialogue. It’s an excellent idea that feels right psychologically. The couple (Hope Davis and Campbell Scott) have three daughters, all drawn as persuasively as the parents, and the film is equally good in handling the discrepancy between skilled and unskilled parents (the father is much better than the mother) and the complications that ensue when an entire family comes down with the flu (2002). 105 min. (JR)… Read more »

O Fantasma

The title of this sexually explicit Portuguese feature (2000) means the phantom, and that’s clearly how the young hero (Ricardo Meneses), a lonely garbage collector in Lisbon, sees himself. Haunted by kinky homoerotic obsessions, drawn to bouts of anonymous sex, and kept company mainly by a loyal dog, he spies on and picks through the trash of a biker, creeping through the night like a cat burglar. Director Joao Pedro Rodrigues lists Lang, Pasolini, and Cronenberg among his favorite directors, but O fantasma reminded me most of Jean Genet’s Un chant d’amour, with bondage and latex replacing incarceration and cigarettes. This is not to say that it’s equally good or poetic, but the eroticizing of a whole universe is no less apparent. In Portuguese with subtitles (though the dialogue is fairly sparse). 90 min. (JR)

Read more »

The Housekeeper

Emilie Dequenne, the teenage heroine of the Dardenne brothers’ Rosetta (1999), is nearly unrecognizable as a Parisian maid at loose ends who seduces her much older employer (Jean-Pierre Bacri), a divorced and depressed sound engineer who reluctantly lets himself fall for her. The story of their affair, adapted by director Claude Berri from a novel by Christian Oster, is fairly predictable, but the two leads’ impressively nuanced performances make it less so, and Berri makes skillful use of both actors, as well as Catherine Breillat (director of Fat Girl, here cast as the ex-wife) and jazz pianist Rene Utreger (whose trio performs on-screen). In French with subtitles. 90 min. (JR)… Read more »

Jimmy Scott: If You Only Knew

Matthew Buzzell’s 2002 documentary profiles the eloquent and eccentric jazz vocalist Jimmy Scott, whose permanent falsetto, the result of an adolescent disorder, enhanced his singular style of phrasing. Although Scott was a friend and musical colleague of Charlie Parker and Lionel Hampton in the 50s and 60s, he had a penchant for trusting the wrong agents, and after a series of unreleased or maginalized albums he disappeared from the scene until the 1990s, when a meteoric comeback led to engagements around the world. After seeing this film last year at the Savannah film festival, I immediately ordered one of Scott’s albums. 78 min. (JR)… Read more »

Give A Girl A Break

The main claim to fame of this low-budget, mainly mediocre 1953 musical, an early effort by Stanley Donen, is that it was shot on sets built for another picturea ploy Jacques Rivette consciously emulated in his 1995 Up Down Fragile. Maybe this is why Donen disowns the film, though Dave Kehr has remarked that, in spite of its saccharine story and saccharine players (Debbie Reynolds, for one) . . . [it] still has its points of interest, including a madly overdone production number involving balloons, confetti, reverse motion, and an impossibly young Bob Fosse, at the start of his career. Marge and Gower Champion are also present, and the latter gets a chance to dance with Fosse. 82 min. (JR)… Read more »

Gigli

Can you buy the notion of Jennifer Lopez as a hit woman, even in a romantic comedy? It doesn’t look like she, costar Ben Affleck, or writer-director Martin Brest can, even though that’s the setup. Lopez and Affleck play heavies assigned by a crime lord to watch over the kidnapped, mentally challenged young brother (Justin Bartha) of a federal prosecutor, but this is less a narrative than a lecture-demonstration on the innate superiority of the New Agey woman’s brains, style, femininity, and open bisexuality over the old-fashioned man’s bad taste, violence, and seemingly straight macho bluster. For the most part I was able to accept this thesis and enjoy Lopez in her usual superwoman role, but the script does get awfully preachy in spots. Brief but flamboyant cameos by Christopher Walken and Al Pacino helped keep me distracted from the noble intentions and the silliness. 124 min. (JR)… Read more »

Juve vs. Fantomas

To my mind French director Louis Feuillade is the greatest filmmaker of the teens–greater even than D.W. Griffith or Maurice Tourneur–yet aside from this single episode of his first great serial, Fantomas (1913), his work hasn’t been screened commercially in the U.S. for 90 years. Like his masterpiece Les vampires (1915), this thriller pits high-tech master criminals against staid bourgeois types and more resourceful working-class stiffs, mixing fantastic and surreal imagery with documentary glimpses of Paris. Fortunately Les vampires is now available here on VHS and DVD, and a disc of the complete and restored Fantomas can be ordered from France, but this rare theatrical screening of Feuillade’s work is still a major event. 64 min. Univ. of Chicago Doc Films.… Read more »