Daily Archives: August 2, 2020

Stromboli

From the Chicago Reader (September 1, 2000). — J.R.

Roberto Rossellini’s first filmic encounter with Ingrid Bergman, made in the wilds in 1949 around the same time the neorealist director and the Hollywood star were being denounced in the U.S. Senate for their adulterous romance. Widely regarded as a masterpiece today, the film was so badly mutilated by Howard Hughes’s RKO (which added offscreen narration, reshuffled some sequences, and deleted others) that Rossellini sued the studio (and lost). The Italian version, which Rossellini approved, has come out on video, and this rarely screened English-language version is very close to it. A Lithuanian-born Czech refugee living in an internment camp (Bergman) marries an Italian fisherman (Mario Vitale) in order to escape, but she winds up on a bare, impoverished island with an active volcano, where most of the locals regard her with hostility. The film is most modern and remarkable when the camera is alone with Bergman, though Rossellini wisely shows neither the wife nor the husband with full sympathy. Eschewing psychology, the film remains a kind of ambiguous pieta whose religious ending is as controversial as that of Rossellini and Bergman’s subsequent Voyage to Italy (though its metaphoric and rhetorical power make it easier to take).… Read more »

Cabaret

From the December 1, 1992 Chicago Reader. — J.R.

cabaret

Bob Fosse pretends to be doing a Brecht-Weill while actually further sentimentalizing and glamorizing Christopher Isherwood’s Goodbye to Berlin –adapted by Jay Presson Allen, and apparently closer to the play I Am a Camera than to the Broadway show. Whatever this 1972 feature is, it’s entertaining and stylish, though maybe not quite as serious as it wants to be. Liza Minnelli stars at her near best, and Joel Grey is the caustic nightclub emcee; both won Oscars along with Fosse, cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth, and music director Ralph Burns. With Michael York, Marisa Berenson, Helmut Griem, and Fritz Wepper; John Kander and Fred Ebb wrote the salty songs. PG, 128 min. (JR)

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Involuntary Geniuses [THE TIC CODE]

From the Chicago Reader (September 1, 2000). — J.R.

The Tic Code

**

Directed by Gary Winick

Written by Polly Draper

With Gregory Hines, Draper, Christopher George Marquette, Desmond Robertson, Carol Kane, Carlos McKinney, Dick Berk, John B. Williams, and Tony Shalhoub.

 

Writing about Finnegans Wake, James Joyce’s most musical book, the late William Troy had the perspicacity to point out that “a word, in the terminology of modern physics, is a time-space event. It is not too much to say that for the poet no word in a language is ever used twice exactly in the same way.” Since a musical note is also a time-space event — repeatable on paper, CD, or tape but not in live performance — existentially speaking an improvised jazz solo is a journey, a dramatic and social act that can happen only once.

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It’s possible to capture certain aspects of jazz performances in words, as critic Whitney Balliett and novelist Rafi Zabor (in the wonderful The Bear Comes Home) have amply demonstrated. But what film can do poetically with jazz solos is much less certain. It might be argued that most films and most jazz solos have stories to tell, but getting their stories to coincide is not an easy task.… Read more »

Charlotte Gray

From the Chicago Reader (December 26, 2001). — J.R.

CharlotteGray

This movie reveals something interesting: during the occupation of France, Nazi officers and French peasants all spoke English with English accents, as did English resistance fighters — aside from the occasional spurt of French and German to identify who’s who. I never thought that a thoughtful director like Gillian Armstrong would get trapped in such Euro-nonsense, but I guess there’s a first time for everything. Jeremy Brock wrote the script, and the landscapes are attractive. Under the circumstances, the omnipresent Cate Blanchett does pretty well in the title role. With Billy Crudup, Michael Gambon, and Rupert Penry-Jones. 121 min. (JR)

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