Daily Archives: January 7, 2005

White Noise

An architect (Michael Keaton) who loses his novelist wife (Chandra West) in an apparent accident is contacted by a stranger (Ian McNeice) who claims to have heard her through something called Electronic Voice Phenomenonthe means by which the dead allegedly communicate with us via radios, TVs, and computers. The widower becomes as obsessed as the stranger with receiving messages and images from beyond. Though I’m well disposed toward elliptical spook stories that depend on the audience’s imagination for their jolts and effects, it takes art as well as craft to put them across, and Geoffrey Sax’s direction of a Niall Johnson script has neither. Muddled and boring. With Deborah Kara Unger. PG-13, 101 min. (JR)… Read more »

The Woodsman

A convicted child molester returns home after a dozen years in prison and tries to go straight. If this has a familiar ring, that may be because the British drama The Mark (1961) explored the same subject (its lead actor, Stuart Whitman, received an Oscar nomination). The differences between the two movies are telling: the earlier one concentrated on the man’s therapy and encouraged compassionate understanding, while this one seems less interested in psychology than in challenging the audience’s sense of its own tolerance. (First-time director Nicole Kassell, who collaborated with Steven Fechter on this adaptation of his play, also seems intermittently influenced by Mystic River, which proves distracting.) Kevin Bacon is good as the pedophile, but as written his character is mainly a cipher; edgier performances come from Kyra Sedgwick (Bacon’s real-life spouse) as the man’s girlfriend and Mos Def as a cop keeping an eye on him. R, 87 min. (JR)… Read more »

The Awful Doctor Orloff

Irrepressible Spanish schlockmeister Jess Franco, one of the worst (and most prolific) filmmakers of all time, launched a protracted series with this 1961 feature about a crazy surgeon carving up various women to secure spare parts for his disfigured daughter — apparently a rip-off of Georges Franju’s Eyes Without a Face (1959). With Howard Vernon. 95 min. (JR)… Read more »

Goodbye, Dragon Inn

From the Chicago Reader (January 7, 2005.) — J.R.

Goodbye Dragon Inn

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For all its minimalism, Tsai Ming-liang’s 2003 masterpiece manages to be many things at once: a Taiwanese Last Picture Show, a failed heterosexual love story, a gay cruising saga, a melancholy tone poem, a mordant comedy, a creepy ghost tale. A cavernous Taipei movie palace on its last legs is (improbably) showing King Hu’s groundbreaking 1966 hit Dragon Inn to a sparse audience (which includes a couple of that film’s stars) while a rainstorm rages outside. As the martial-arts classic unfolds on the screen, so do various elliptical intrigues in the theater — the limping cashier, for instance, pines after the projectionist, even though she never sees him. Tsai has a flair for skewed compositions and imparts commanding presence to seemingly empty pockets of space and time. In Mandarin, Cantonese, and Taiwanese with subtitles. 81 min. Music Box.

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