Daily Archives: February 13, 2004

The Best Of The Shorts

Cuteness and sentimentality mar Daniel Gamburg’s Tsipa & Volf (2000, 25 min.), a home-movie-like portrait of a Jewish-Russian couple who’ve been together for half a century (which I only sampled), as well as Ryo Hayashi’s fictional short Useless (2000, 14 min.), about a Japanese insurance worker who’s retiring. But the three other works on this program refreshingly avoid such pitfalls: Jophi Ries’s Always (1999, 14 min.), a subtle German fiction short about another long-term marriage; Jennifer Petrucelli’s Inside/Out (2000, 8 min.), an affecting documentary about a woman whose face is half-paralyzed; and Scott Catolico’s silly but spirited Canadian jaunt Smoking Can Kill You (1999, 5 min.). (JR)… Read more »

The Dreamers

On the eve of the May 1968 demonstrations in Paris, a young American film freak (Michael Pitt) meets a vaguely incestuous French brother and sister (Louis Garrel and Eva Green) at the Cinematheque Francais and gets drawn into their perverse games, which involve sex as well as cinephilia. Less sexy, believable, literary, and transgressive than Gilbert Adair’s 1988 source novel The Holy Innocents, which he adapted for director Bernardo Bertolucci, this watchable if far-fetched movie (2003) is seriously marred by its three leads; only Garrel manages to suggest a person rather than a fashion model dutifully following instructions. And ironically, despite the nudity that provoked an NC-17 rating, the film suffers from its own censorship of the novel’s homosexual elements. 115 min. (JR)… Read more »

Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai Du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles


Chantal Akerman’s greatest film — made in 1975 and running 198 minutes — is one of those lucid puzzlers that may drive you up the wall but will keep you thinking for days or weeks. Delphine Seyrig, in one of her greatest performances, plays Jeanne Dielman, a Belgian woman obsessed with performing daily rounds of housework and other routines (including occasional prostitution) in the flat she occupies with her teenage son. The film follows three days in Dielman’s regulated life, and Akerman’s intense concentration on her daily activities — monumentalized by Babette Mangolte’s superb cinematography and mainly frontal camera setups — eventually sensitizes us to the small ways in which her system is breaking down. By placing so much emphasis on aspects of life and work that other films routinely omit, mystify, or skirt over, Akerman forges a major statement, not only in a feminist context but also in a way that tells us something about the lives we all live. In French with subtitles. (JR)

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