Daily Archives: January 9, 2004

Destino

In the late 1940s, Walt Disney and Salvador Dali planned to collaborate on this animated short, only recently completed for the Disney studio by Dominique Monfery. Running seven minutes, it shows how much the prude and the libertine had in common as kitsch romanticists. The candy-coated surrealism on display is rated PG for what the MPAA cautiously describes as mild sensuality. (JR)… Read more »

Monster

Rarely does a lead actor dominate a film as Charlize Theron does this first feature (2003) by writer-director Patty Jenkins, playing Florida prostitute and serial killer Aileen Wuornos (already the subject of two Nick Broomfield documentaries). Theron’s performance is impressive not only for her physical transformation and willingness to be unattractive, but also for her determination to convey the character’s profound emotional confusion and relative incoherence without making them part of any nudging thesis. Jenkins deserves credit as well for steering the film away from all the usual comforting exploitation standbyshonest curiosity and observation are what make this work, and in this respect Christina Ricci (as Wuornos’s lover, Selby Wall) is almost as good as Theron. With Bruce Dern. R, 111 min. (JR)… Read more »

Chasing Liberty

Tired of being followed by hordes of Secret Service agents every time she goes on a date, the U.S. president’s 18-year-old daughter (Mandy Moore) escapes during a diplomatic trip to Europe and sets off on her own with a young Brit (Matthew Goode). Roman Holiday is an obvious reference point for this relatively harmless romantic comedy, but It Happened One Night and Sullivan’s Travels might be just as relevant. The couple move through Prague, Venice, Berlin, and the Austrian countryside; all of these seem attractive, which in the present political climate almost makes the movie look progressive. Jeremy Piven and Annabella Sciorra exert some charm as bodyguards tracking the couple; Mark Harmon and Caroline Goodall are OK as the heroine’s parents. Andy Cadiff directed Derek Guiley and David Schneiderman’s by-the-numbers script. PG-13, 101 min. (JR)… Read more »

Canadian Animation

A program of shorts including Co Hoedeman’s The Sand Castle (1977), Caroline Leaf’s The Street (1976), Richard Condie’s Getting Started (1979), When the Day Breaks (1999), and Norman McLaren’s Begone Dull Care (1947), the only one I’ve seena collaboration with jazz pianist Oscar Peterson and an unadulterated delight. (JR)… Read more »

Ecstasy

Gustav Machaty’s erotic classic (1932) from Czechoslovakia, which introduced Hedy Lamarr to the world, is considered a curiosity and a period piece by some, but if my own memories are anything to go by, it still has its charms, both cinematic and sensual. Lamarr plays a sexually frustrated young wife who leaves her older husband and subsequently finds bliss with a younger man. 82 min. In Czech with subtitles. (JR)… Read more »

Alone

The talented Grigory Kozintsev and Leonid Trauberg, whose experimental Factory of the Eccentric Actor yielded some major Russian silent features (The Overcoat, New Babylon), try their hand at sound with this 1931 drama about a young teacher in Leningrad (Elena Kuzmina) who’s foolishly assigned to teach in a Siberian village on the eve of her wedding. The film’s most interesting aspects are its Shostakovich score and its criticism of the Soviet bureaucracy, which was still possible at the time. Originally shot as a silent picture, it’s rather static and clunky compared to Kozintsev and Trauberg’s earlier efforts, in part because what’s going on in the city government is more importantthough less visiblethan the heroine’s travails. 80 min. In Russian with subtitles. (JR)… Read more »

Remembrance Of Things To Come

Both the title and the witty, urbane narration delivered by Alexandra Stewart are quintessential Chris Marker, yet this 42-minute essay (2001) about the work of photographer Denise Bellon is in fact a collaboration between Marker and Bellon’s sister Yannick, a director in her own right who has been making films since 1947. Most of the Denise Bellon photography on-screen comes from France in the late 30s, and the sense of history is as sharp and inflected with literary irony as in Marker’s other films. (JR)… Read more »

Michelangelo Antonioni: The Eye That Changed Cinema

Sandro Lai compiled interviews, talk show appearances, and award presentations from Italian TV for this 2001 film chronicling most of the director’s career. It hardly qualifies as in-depth analysis of either the man or his films, but it has a lot of historical flavor and some odd bits of trivia (Antonioni once visited John F. Kennedy in the White House to discuss a film about the projected moon landing). Apparently Antonioni shifted to color before much of Italian TV did, because the brief coverage here of Red Desert (1964), Blowup (1966), and Zabriskie Point (1969) is in black and white, and color arrives only with his disputed documentary about China. 58 min. (JR)… Read more »

The Last Conversation: Eisenstein’s Carmen Ballet

A fascinating reconstruction (1998, 20 min.) of one of Sergei Eisenstein’s last completed works, a miniature ballet based on the final scene of Bizet’s Carmen. Director Sally Banes painstakingly researched Eisenstein’s choreography, staged the dance with Galina Zakrutkina and James Sutton, and filmed it twiceone version an uninterrupted take, the other edited. Film theorist Noel Carroll wrote the narration, which guides us purposefully through every major step of the reconstruction process before letting us enjoy the result. In English and subtitled Russian. (JR)… Read more »

Remembrance of Things to Come

Both the title and the witty, urbane narration delivered by Alexandra Stewart are quintessential Chris Marker, yet this 42-minute essay (2001) about the work of photographer Denise Bellon is in fact a collaboration between Marker and Bellon’s son Yannick, a director in his own right who has been making films since 1947. Most of the Denise Bellon photography on-screen comes from France in the late 30s, and the sense of history is as sharp and inflected with literary irony as in Marker’s other films. Also on the program as a perfect companion piece is his best-known work, La jetee (1962), a contemplative 27-minute postapocalyptic fiction told almost exclusively in still photographs. Remembrance will be projected from Beta SP video; La jetee, in French with subtitles, will be screened in a new 35-millimeter print. Gene Siskel Film Center.… Read more »