Daily Archives: October 31, 2003

Emerald Cowboy

Eishy Hayata, a Japanese emigre to Colombia, wrote and executive-produced this vanity film celebrating his violent exploits from the 1970s onward in establishing the Colombian emerald trade. He also plays himself (rather woodenly) in the present, while casting handsome Luis Velasco as his younger self and allowing Andrew Molina credit as producer-director. Shot on location in Colombia, this begins as a western but eventually mutates into an industrial thriller, with left-wing guerillas and union workers as the bad guys.… Read more »

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

Sometimes the best photojournalism comes from being in the right place at the right time, which is certainly true of this lucid and gripping on-location account of the 2002 coup d’etat in Venezuela, instigated by oil barons (with the alleged support of the CIA), that toppled the democratically elected socialistic government of Hugo Chavez for 48 breathless hours. The role of the state-operated TV channel versus the more popular channels controlled by oil interests proved to be pivotal, and this part of the story alone makes the film well worth seeing. Directed by Kim Bartley and Donnache O’Briain of Ireland, this proves that the best documentaries currently outshine Hollywood features as the most watchable, energizing, and relevant movies around. In English and subtitled Spanish. 74 min. (JR)… Read more »

Queering Film History

A program of four experimental films and, judging from the three I’ve seen, a first-rate onethough one shouldn’t conclude from the title that gender and sexual orientation are the only concerns here. Martin Arnold’s Piece Touchee (1989, 15 min.), Passage a l’Acte (1993, 12 min.), and Alone. Life Wastes Andy Hardy (1998, 15 min.) are all elaborate manipulations of brief sequences from black-and-white Hollywood features (The Concrete Jungle, To Kill a Mockingbird, and one or more of the Andy Hardy pictures with Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland respectively) that make them register as exceptionally weird and deranged. Abigail Child’s 56-minute Is This What You Were Born For? (1987), which I haven’t seen, also makes use of found footage. (JR)… Read more »

In The Mirror Of Maya Deren

Maya Deren (1917-’61) did more than anyone else to create the American experimental film as we know it, and this 2002 German documentary (in English) by Martina Kudlacek is the best portrait of an experimental filmmaker that I know. Kudlacek steeps us in Deren’s artistic and bohemian milieu (basically Greenwich Village in the 40s and 50s, though she made her first film in Los Angeles and later spent much time in Haiti), and because Deren did such a good job of recording and documenting her own activities, the film is able to provide a detailed sense of what she was like as both a person and an artist. Among the eloquent friends and associates interviewed are Jonas Mekas, Katherine Dunham, Stan Brakhage, Amos and Marcia Vogel, Graeme Ferguson, Alexander Hammid (her second husband and sometime collaborator), Judith Malina, Miriam Arsham, Rita Christiani, Teiji Ito, and Chao-li Chi. 104 min. (JR)… Read more »

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

Sometimes the best photojournalism comes from being in the right place at the right time, which is certainly true of this lucid and gripping on-location account of the 2002 coup d’etat in Venezuela, instigated by oil barons (with the alleged support of the CIA), that toppled the democratically elected socialistic government of Hugo Chavez for 48 breathless hours. The role of the state-operated TV channel versus the more popular channels controlled by oil interests proved to be pivotal, and this part of the story alone makes the film well worth seeing. Directed by Kim Bartley and Donnache O’Briain of Ireland, this was among the top ten audience favorites at the recent Chicago International Film Festival and won the Silver Hugo for best documentary feature; it proves again that the best documentaries currently outshine Hollywood features as the most watchable, energizing, and relevant movies around. 74 min. Landmark’s Century Centre.… Read more »

Eyes Without a Face

As Dave Kehr originally described it, “a classic example of the poetry of terror.” Georges Franju’s 1959 horror film, based on a novel by Jean Redon, is about a plastic surgeon who’s responsible for the car accident that leaves his daughter disfigured; he attempts to rebuild her face with transplants from attractive young women he kidnaps with the aid of his assistant. As absurd and as beautiful as a fairy tale, this chilling, nocturnal black-and-white masterpiece was originally released in this country dubbed and under the title The Horror Chamber of Dr. Faustus, but it’s much too elegant to warrant the usual “psychotronic” treatment. It may be Franju’s best feature, and Eugen Schufftan’s exquisite cinematography deserves to be seen in 35-millimeter. With Pierre Brasseur, Edith Scob, Alida Valli, Juliette Mayniel, Francois Guerin, and Claude Brasseur; Maurice Jarre composed the music. In French with subtitles. 88 min. Music Box.… Read more »