Daily Archives: October 14, 2005

Housewarming

Carole Bouquet brings a lot of verve to her part as a successful lawyer, single mother, and illegal-alien activist whose liberal convictions are tested when she hires a team of immigrants without papers to renovate the second floor of her apartment and they wreck it. This farce (the original title is Travaux) is limited mainly to variations on a single premise, apart from a few fantasy interludes that work only fitfully (such as Bouquet’s impromptu dance steps, which seem to stand in for her legal maneuvers). But at least the premise is a good one, and writer-director Brigitte Rouan manages to sustain her light touch through all the broad turns of her secondary cast. In French with subtitles. 90 min. (JR)… Read more »

Forty Shades Of Blue

Ira Sachs likes to approach his hometown of Memphis through an alien perspective: his previous feature, The Delta (1996), was about the son of a Vietnamese woman and a black American soldier, and this new one, which won the grand jury prize at Sundance, is about a young Russian woman (Dina Korzun of Last Resort) who’s moved in with an aging and neglectful rock star (Rip Torn), the father of her three-year-old son. The star’s grown son (Darren Burrows) comes home for a visit, throwing various oedipal issues into relief, and Sachs, who wrote the script with Michael Rohatyn, creates a fresh and unpredictable portrait of the mother. But the narrative doesn’t keep building on what it starts out with and stalls toward the end. 107 min. (JR)… Read more »

Baby Face: The Uncut Version

Even in its censored 70-minute version, this 1933 feaure has long been celebrated as one of the Depression era’s raciest movies, and this recently discovered uncut version, with six minutes of extra footage, is even more explicit and sordid. Sexy, steely Barbara Stanwyck is a small-town prostitute initially pimped by her bootlegger father; with her only friend (Theresa Harris), a black woman who eventually becomes her maid, she moves to the city, and armed with nihilist sayings by Nietzsche, starts screwing her way up the corporate ladder (though she rebuffs John Wayne, seen in an early bit part). Darryl F. Zanuck supplied the original story, and the underrated Alfred E. Green directed. (JR)… Read more »

Touch The Sound

German filmmaker Thomas Riedelsheimer worked famously with alternative sculptor Andy Goldsworthy in Rivers and Tides (2001), but here he’s found a more provocative and interesting subject: Evelyn Glennie, a celebrated classical percussionist from rural Scotland who is deaf. As the title of this fascinating portrait might suggest, she’s taught herself to identify and distinguish between notes through vibrations, working with different areas of sensitivity throughout her body. She’s worked with everyone from Bjork to Brazilian samba groups and also gives solo concerts, and the best segments simply show her at work in her mid-30s, explaining what she does. 99 min. (JR)… Read more »

Johnny Staccato

Around the same time he was making Shadows, John Cassavetes was starring in a pretty good TV series about a jazz pianist who makes ends meet by working as a private detective, a sort of black-and-white spin-off of Peter Gunn (he even directed three episodes). The music was composed by Elmer Bernstein and performed by a classic west-coast ensemble including Pete Candoli, Barney Kessel, Red Norvo, Red Mitchell, and Shelly Manne. The Jazz Institute of Chicago is presenting a jazz-oriented sampling of the series. (JR)… Read more »

Cinema’s Secret Garden — The Amateur as Auteur

Writing in the New York Times, Dave Kehr called Bruce Posner’s 19-hour box set Unseen Cinema: Early American Avant-Garde Film 1894-1941 “one of the major monuments of the DVD medium.” Yet one peculiarity of this medium is that its monuments are easily overlooked, and this 174-minute program, part of a touring series that also stops at the University of Chicago Film Studies Center later this month, offers a rare chance to sample Posner’s uncommon discoveries on the big screen, most in their original formats. The box set defines avant-garde broadly enough to include Busby Berkeley production numbers and home movies, though some of the latter come from seminal experimental filmmakers Rudy Burckhardt, Lewis Jacobs, and Joseph Cornell (whose efforts from the 1930s have recently been brought to presentable completion by Lawrence Jordan). This program is anchored in the mid-30s and provides splendidly offbeat evocations of that era, but it also includes sound tests from the mid-20s that were sold to Fox’s Movietone, and most of the silent films have been furnished with excellent musical scores. Thu 10/20, 8 PM, Northwestern Univ. Block Museum of Art.… Read more »

Baby Face: The Uncut Version and Two Seconds

Even in its censored 70-minute version, Baby Face (1933) has long been celebrated as one of the Depression era’s raciest movies, and this recently discovered uncut version, with six minutes of extra footage, is even more explicit and sordid. Sexy, steely Barbara Stanwyck is a small-town prostitute initially pimped by her bootlegger father; with her only friend (Theresa Harris), a black woman who eventually becomes her maid, she moves to the city, and armed with nihilist sayings by Nietzsche, starts screwing her way up the corporate ladder (though she rebuffs John Wayne, seen in an early bit part). Darryl F. Zanuck supplied the original story, and the underrated Alfred E. Green directed. Rounding off this dynamic double bill, which launches the Music Box’s “Forbidden Hollywood” matinee series, is Mervyn LeRoy’s Two Seconds (1932, 68 min.), adapted from an Elliott Lester play; though stagy, it stars Edward G. Robinson in his most bravura performance, as a condemned murderer reliving his doomed marriage and the accidental death of his best friend on a construction site. Fri 10/14 and Sun 10/16, Music Box.… Read more »