Daily Archives: September 15, 2006

This Film Is Not Yet Rated

If any studio-run organization deserves to be unpacked and interrogated, it’s the Motion Picture Association of America, which doles out movie ratings, so any adversarial documentary on the subject is welcome. This piece of invective by Kirby Dick (Derrida, Twist of Faith) is watchable and sometimes enjoyable, but it skates too quickly over the MPAA’s pro-Hollywood, anti-independent bias and its preference for violence over sex as appropriate fare for children. Instead Dick focuses on the anonymity of the raters, making elaborate efforts to expose them; the ensuing high jinks yield some easy laughs, but there’s not enough consideration of the public gullibility and passivity that help preserve the MPAA’s monopoly. NC-17, 97 min. (JR)… Read more »

The Devil In Miss Jones

The title heroine (Georgina Spelvin) goes to limbo for committing suicide but strikes a bargain to return to earth and indulge in all the sins of the flesh she passed up during her life. This notoriously hyperbolic and almost encyclopedic hard-core porn item (1973) was Gerard Damiano’s follow-up to Deep Throat; using the psuedonym Albert Gork, he also plays a character who winds up locked in a cell with Spelvin. I can’t vouch for how much this has dated since its release, but I would suspect a lot. X, 67 min. (JR)… Read more »

Memories Of Murder

South Korean writer-director Bong Joon-ho (The Host) made his feature debut with the grisly black comedy Barking Dogs Never Bite (2000), but this one (2003) is far more ambitious and nuanced. A police procedural, it’s based on the unsolved murders of ten women between 1986 and 1991 in the rustic Gyeonggi province, reputedly the first recorded serial killings in Korean history. Bong concentrates on the friction between a local yokel cop and a big-city gumshoe with more sophisticated techniques, but his larger context is the military dictatorship of the period and the public paranoia it inspired. At 129 minutes, this takes a while to get started but gains momentum. In Korean with subtitles. (JR)… Read more »

Half Nelson

A triumph of affectionate and even passionate portraiture, this debut feature by cowriters Ryan Fleck and Ann Boden focuses on three complex characters: a politically radical junior high history teacher (Ryan Gosling) who’s devoted to his work but also addicted to crack, a fearless 13-year-old student (Shareeka Epps) who stumbles onto his secret and forms an emotional bond with him, and a smooth local dealer (Anthony Mackie) who employed her brother before he went to jail and now wants to take her under his wing. Their story is unpredictable, beautifully acted, and revelatory in its moral quandaries. Gosling’s character is the most believable protagonist in any American movie I’ve seen this year–an immature mess, but charismatic, multifaceted, and sincere, the sort we can’t really dismiss without dismissing some part of ourselves. Fleck directed. R, 106 min. Reviewed this week in Section 1. Century 12 and CineArts 6, Music Box.… Read more »

A Radical Idea [HALF NELSON & THIS FILM IS NOT YET RATED]

From the Chicago Reader (September 15, 2006). — J.R.

Half Nelson

**** (Masterpiece)

Directed by Ryan Fleck | Written by Anna Boden and Fleck | With Ryan Gosling, Shareeka Epps, Anthony Mackie, Monique Gabriela Curnen, Karen Chilton, and Tina Holmes

This Film Is Not Yet Rated

** (Worth seeing)

Directed by Kirby Dick | Written by Dick, Eddie Schmidt, and Matt Patterson

Half Nelson is open about its radical politics — remarkable at a time when most mainstream movies are being marketed as apolitical. But of course most movies have biases, the most common of which is a belief that the world can be meaningfully divided into good guys and bad guys. The real issue isn’t whether there’s pure good or pure evil in the world, as Bush keeps insisting. It’s whether we’re willing to view the world as nuanced and complex. If as Americans we believe we’re the good guys regardless of what we do — even if that includes torturing and killing as many innocent people as we deem necessary to defeat the bad guys — then we’re more likely to lose sight of what’s actually being done. It’s not hard to conclude that Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden are bad guys, but when Americans helped arm them both did that make us bad guys too?… Read more »

4

Scripted by novelist Vladimir Sorokin, this 2004 debut feature by Russian director Ilya Khrzanovsky is puzzling, intriguing, and often compelling, apparently set in the present but magical and futuristic in tone. Three strangers–a prostitute, a meat vendor, and a piano tuner–meet in a bar and bullshit at great length about who they are and what they do before going their separate ways; like them, the film then veers off into different directions, growing increasingly strange and phantasmagorical. A highly original blend of observation and imagination, this remains as unpredictable as its characters (some of whom are stray dogs). In Russian with subtitles. 128 min. Gene Siskel Film Center.… Read more »