Daily Archives: January 1, 1988

Tampopo

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Juzo Itami’s second comedy (1987) represents a quantum leap beyond his first (The Funeral): without abandoning his flair for social satire, he expands his scope to encompass the kind of narrative free play we associate with late Buñuel. His subjects are food, sex, and death, roughly in that order, his ostensible focal point the opening of a noodle restaurant. Working with a venerable cast that includes veterans of Kurosawa, Ozu, Shinoda, and Terayama, he takes us on a wild spree through an obsession, winding his way through various digressions with a dark, philosophical wit that is both hilarious and disturbing. Not to be missed. In Japanese with subtitles.… Read more »

Return Of The Living Dead Part Ii

No, this isn’t another sequel to George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead series; it’s a sequel to Dan O’Bannon’s 1985 unauthorized send-up of the cyclewhich is a bit confusing, because Romero’s zombie films were satirical to begin with. In any case, this sequel to a satire of a satire is written and directed by Ken Wiederhorn, not O’Bannon, although a couple of the starsJames Karen and Thom Mathewsare carried over from the O’Bannon film; others in the cast include Marsha Dietlein, Suzanne Snyder, Dana Ashbrook, and Philip Bruns as Doc.… Read more »

Outcast

Based on Toson Shimazaki’s novel, Keisuke Kinoshita’s film follows the difficulties of a young schoolteacher who tries to conceal the fact that his ancestors belonged to Japan’s pariah class, and who loses his job when the truth comes out. Made during the American occupation (1948), the film makes expressive use of natural locations. Not to be confused with Kon Ichikawa’s 1961 remake, which used the same title. (JR)… Read more »

Ophelia

This underrated and unsettling early Claude Chabrol film (1962) features Andre Jocelyn as a spoiled, bored provincial who goes to see Olivier’s Hamlet and gets the idea that it describes his own life and tortured family romance. The weird and neurotic figure cut by Jocelyn, similar to the character he played in Chabrol’s A double tour three years earlier, is at the center of this gloomy melodrama, which is more about the boredom of small-town life and what it drives some people to than anything elsealthough there are plenty of Shakespearean parallels to liven things up. Shot (very effectively) by Jean Rabier, with Juliette Mayniel, Alida Valli, and Claude Cerval. (JR)… Read more »

Moonstruck

Good, corny fun develops when Italian-American widow Loretta Castorini (Cher) falls in love with her fiance’s brother Ronny Cammareri (Nicolas Cage). Director Norman Jewison and screenwriter John Patrick Shanley milk the New York settings, accents, and folkways for all they’re worthalthough those familiar with certain Manhattan locations may be dismayed to find them transplanted to Brooklynand the broad Italian family humor gets so thick at times that you could cut it with a bread knife. Among the adorable secondary cast are Vincent Gardenia, Olympia Dukakis, Danny Aiello, Julie Bovasso, and Feodor Chaliapin Jr., but most of the show belongs to Cher and Cage, both of whom are at their energetic best. Dick Hyman is in charge of the hyperbolic music, which starts off with That’s Amore to clue us all in to what we should expect (1987). 102 min. (JR)… Read more »

Las Vegas Hillbillys

Woody (Ferlin Husky) inherits a dumpy casino in Las Vegas, and Mamie Van Doren and Jayne Mansfield both help him to liven up the place, along with a good many country-western and rockabilly performers, including Bill Anderson, Connie Smith, Del Reeves, and Sonny James; also on hand are Richard Kiel and The Duke of Paducah. This low-budget curiosity of 1966, also known as Country Music U.S.A., was directed by Arthur C. Pierce. (JR)… Read more »

Koyaanisqatsi

Eighty-seven minutes of American landscapes and urban sociology are synchronized by filmmaker Godfrey Reggio to a plodding Philip Glass score. (A once interesting composer, Glass invariably does his worst work for films.) Despite a certain underground reputation, aided in part by Francis Ford Coppola’s sponsorship, this 1983 quasi-mystical documentary is largely a dull rehash of ideas given infinitely better realization in Vertov’s The Man With the Movie Camera (showing at the same venue afterwardsee separate listing) and many other experimental films of the 20s. (JR)… Read more »

Karma

Shot by a Vietnamese cast and crew in Vietnam, using equipment left behind by the Americans, this 1986 feature by Ho Quang Minh, based on the well-known short story The Wounded Beast, is a rare look at the Vietnam war from a South Vietnamese viewpoint. The plot hinges on the personal story of a young woman who, believing her husband to have been killed in combat, winds up as a prostitute in Saigon; years later her husband returns and repeatedly rejects her after discovering what she has become. A Vietnamese/Swiss coproduction, the film was largely financed in Switzerland, where the director is a naturalized citizen. (JR)… Read more »

Good Morning, Vietnam

Loosely based on the experiences of real-life disc jockey Adrian Cronauer, this 1987 Barry Levinson comedy-drama stars Robin Williams as the Armed Forces Radio announcer sent to Saigon to boost morale among the troops. Well meaning and fitfully entertaining, the movie turns some of its best ideas into mush by making its villains (square, intolerant officers) too easy targets, and by nudging us constantly about Cronauer’s brilliance with cutaways to ecstatic listening soldiers. Williams does get off a few snazzy effectssuch as imitating the sounds of a record playing too slow, too fast, and backwardbut the sort of good-guy 50s liberalism that this movie seems so proud of registers too often as self-congratulation. Chintara Sukapatana, a leading Thai actress who plays a young Vietnamese woman Cronauer is interested in, is exceptionally beautiful, and Forest Whitaker is likable in a somewhat drippy part as the hero’s loyal sidekick, but Mitch Markowitz’s script doesn’t even begin to chew the material it bites off. (JR)… Read more »

The Goddess

Kim Stanley stars as an unhappy child of the Depression who becomes an unhappy movie stara character largely modeled on Marilyn Monroein this uncompromising and ambitiously structured look at the dark side of Hollywood, directed by John Cromwell from an original script by Paddy Chayevsky. Divided into separately titled chapters, this portrait of a tragically trapped life was an unlikely and grimly memorable movie to come out of Hollywood in 1958. With a fine supporting cast, including Lloyd Bridges, Steven Hill, Betty Lou Holland, and Patty Duke. (JR)… Read more »

For Keeps

For Creeps might make a better title. One would like to think that at least part of the original intention of the script by Saturday Night Live’s Tim Kazurinsky and former Reader staffer Denise DeClue was to deal with some of the hard facts about teenage pregnancies that other youth movies gloss over. If so, fitful snatches of that intention remain, but buried under so many layers of conventionality and cloddishness that one has to dig for them with a bulldozer. Molly Ringwald and Randall Batinkoff play the hapless romantic leads, and while the former gamely does what she can with John G. Avildsen’s direction, it’s a losing battle; others include Miriam Flynn, Conchata Ferrell, and a particularly cliched sitcom turn from Kenneth Mars. There are bad country music songs written about this, Ringwald remarks at one point. Bad movies, too. (JR)… Read more »

Five Corners

It’s a pity that producer and onetime actor (Come Blow Your Horn) Tony Bill doesn’t have a better sense of history in his direction of this nostalgic piece of exploitation (1988) about a lower-middle-class Bronx neighborhood in 1964, although screenwriter John Patrick Shanleywhose script for Moonstruck exhibits a related sense of New York cozinessis also partially responsible. An Irish working-class kid, the son of a recently deceased cop, believes in the nonviolent principles of Martin Luther King until some disillusioning brushes with the black world and some violent skirmishes with an old pal just out of prison show him the error of his ways. For all I know, some of the local and period details about the Bronx may be deadly accurate, but the exploitative cynicism of the plot and the complacencies about race relations smack more of contemporary mythology, particularly as it’s strained through TV sitcom misreadings of the 60s and more bad thrillers than you can shake a stick at. Cinematographer Fred Murphy does his usual fine work, and some of the cute domestic details make this intermittently watchable, but the ideological platitudes are repulsive and false, and the plot manipulations for the sake of effectsculminating in an all-stops-out violent finaleare no less tacky.… Read more »

Double Messieurs

Stylistically distinctive (with a rhythmically inventive use of jump cuts), impressively acted (by Jean-Francois Stevenin, Yves Afonso, and Carole Bouquet), and simultaneously unpredictable and rather bewildering as narrative, Jean-Francois Stevenin’s second feature, made in 1986, looks like nothing else in contemporary French cinema. Stevenin, who is mainly known as a rather ubiquitous actor, plays a character who accidentally runs into a boyhood chum (Afonso); together they decide to pay a surprise visit to another mutual childhood friend who now lives outside Grenoblea mysterious figure who never makes an appearanceand the film basically charts their long wait together, largely in the company of the missing friend’s wife (Bouquet). Arresting visually as well as aurally (it’s filmed in direct sound), Double Messieurs manages to make all of its characters and their behavior sad as well as mysterious; a sense of broken dreams and an irretrievable past lurks behind the fitful, random actions and picturesque settings. Crew members are utilized in the cast, and Stevenin’s bizarre notations on the buddy movie stay firmly lodged in one’s memory. (JR)… Read more »

Comic Magazine

Yojiro Takita’s 1986 satire about the snooping excesses of a scandal-hungry reporter has loads of energy, though some spectators may find this sensationalist look at sensationalism guilty of some of the attitudes it ridicules. With Yumi Asou, Yuya Uchida, and Seiko Matsuda. (JR)… Read more »

China Girl

The fact that lower Manhattan’s Chinatown and Little Italy are adjacent to one another provides the basis for this 1987 exploitation bloodbath directed by Abel Ferrara (Bad Lieutenant), which has racial gang fights and old-boy networks to spare. Bojan Bazelli’s location photography is luminous and exciting, and the battle lines charted in Nicholas St. John’s script are fairly complex, but the characterizations in this Romeo and Juliet tale of an Italian-American (Richard Panebianco) and a Chinese-American (Sari Chang) caught in the cross fire are so minimal that it’s hard to get very involved in the proceedings. (The fact that St. John occasionally filches dialogue from West Side Story doesn’t help much either.) James Russo, David Caruso, Russell Wong, Joey Chin, and the Living Theatre’s Judith Malina also figure in the cast. (JR)… Read more »