Daily Archives: October 11, 2007

The Last Mistress

It’s characteristic of the virtues and limitations of French sexual provocateur Catherine Breillat (Romance, Anatomy of Hell) that they usually derive from the same sourcethe fearless determination to skirt the borders of camp. In her avowedly free adaptation of Jules-Amedee Barbey d’Aurevilly… Read more »


This is supposed to be set in 1950 in Alabama (where it was filmed), but the true location is some Never-Never Land in John Sayles’s imagination, sparked by research, a sharp ear for dialogue, and diverse fancies about the birth of rock ‘n’ roll. Yet as in the 1943 musical Stormy Weather, the wonderful cast, mainly black, carries it all with ease, even sailing past occasional false moments, such as a tacky flashback toward the end. Danny Glover, as hard-rock reliable as Spencer Tracy in his prime, plays onetime pianist Tyrone Pine Top Purvis, trying to save his title juke joint from economic disaster by pretending that a young drifter with a guitar (Gary Clark Jr.) is blues star Guitar Sam. He juggles and somehow resolves diverse problems with competition, electricity, cash, his wife, his daughter, and the local sheriff (Stacy Keach), spearheading an overall progress toward communal joy that for me yields the most enjoyable Sayles movie since 1984′s The Brother From Another Planet. PG-13, 123 min. (JR)… Read more »

Flight Of The Red Balloon

A relatively slight but sturdy work by Taiwanese master Hou Hsiao-hsien, this slice of contemporary urban life more or less does for Paris what his Cafe Lumiere did for Tokyo, albeit with less minimalism and more overt emotionas well as a fantasy thread derived from Albert Lamorisse’s classic 1956 short for children, The Red Balloon. There’s not much story here, but the characters are substantial: a single mother (nicely played by Juliette Binoche) who runs a local avant-garde puppet theater and is preoccupied with such matters as a downstairs tenant who refuses to pay rent or leave, her neglected but mainly cheerful son, and his Taiwanese nanny, a filmmaker in her spare time. The puppet theater recalls the work of the title figure in Hou’s sublime 1993 The Puppetmaster, but what it suggests here has less to do with the vicissitudes of national history than with representation and metaphor. In French with subtitles. 113 min. (JR)… Read more »

The Duchess Of Langeais

Over the course of his long career, Jacques Rivette has mainly worked in three modesviewing the present historically, period drama, and fantasy; only in Celine and Julie Go Boating has he combined all three. His other greatest works, L’Amour Fou and both versions of Out 1, are in the first mode, even though they work with historical referencesRacine’s Andromache and Balzac’s History of the Thirteen. Conversely, his period films tend to avoid contemporary references. So his period adaptation of the second of the three novellas in History of the Thirteen is a far cry from Out 1 in terms of both method and substance; the only common point is the focus on actors and mise en scene. The flirtation between a married aristocrat (Jeanne Balibar) and a general (Guillaume Depardieu) in Restoration Paris, inspired by a recent romantic frustration of Balzac’s, is masterfully charted and adeptly played, but also rather minimalist. It’s charged with nuance yet ultimately an exercise in compressed literary adaptation. In French with subtitles. 137 min. (JR)… Read more »