Monthly Archives: January 1988

Women’s Moving Pictures: New Works By Six Experimental Film Artists

The half-dozen films to be shown: Chick Strand’s Anselmo and the Women, which explores the private life of a Mexican street musician; Gunvor Nelson’s Frameline, which combines memories and fantasies with physical reality; Barbara Hammer’s approximation of the viewpoint of her 97-year-old grandmother in Optic Nerve; Jean Sousa’s Spent Moments, which follows the domestic entrapment and chores of an anonymous woman; Margaret Ganahl’s Saving the Proof, which brings about the complex breakdown and transformation of a walking woman; and Ardath Grant’s lament in three movements for the late writer and video artist Theresa Cha, Departures. Read more

What’s Up, Tiger Lily?

Arguably Woody Allen’s funniest movie (as well as his first), though he acts as if he’d prefer to forget it today, this redubbing of a Japanese James Bond spin-off bristles with loony invention and energy. The MacGuffin in this international intrigue, as rewritten by Allen (who appears as commentator in linking sections with China Lee), is an egg salad recipe; the characters include Phil Moskowitz and Terri Yaki; the music is by the Lovin’ Spoonful (who also appear in linking episodes). A riotous object lesson in how much dialogue can transform visuals, and Allen works wonders with it (1966). The title, incidentally, plays off What’s New, Pussycat?, written by and costarring Allen and released the previous year. 80 min. (JR) Read more

Village Tale

A rare screening of one of John Cromwell’s least seen featuresand, according to film historian William K. Everson and Cromwell himself, one of his best. A melodrama set in a small town in Iowa, full of intrigues and multiple subplots and revolving around a love triangle that leads to a feud between the two landowners involved, the film reportedly bears some relationship to Peyton Place in its realistic critique of provincial attitudes and behavior. Randolph Scott stars; adapted by Allan Scott from a novel by Phil Strong, and shot by Nicholas Musuraca (1935). Read more


Sergio Toledo’s first feature, from Brazil, describes the life and experiences of a fierce tomboy, Vera (Ana Beatriz Noguieira), who wants to be a man. Coming from a difficult boarding school background, she forms a relationship with a beautiful young woman named Clara, and her intense desire to be treated like a man leads her to consider a sex change operation. A brutual depiction of sexual conditioning, but as a treatment of gender confusion it’s questionable whether this has much more to say about the subject than the treatment of Linda Manz’s character in Dennis Hopper’s Out of the Blue; despite a liberal orientation, it’s surely no less bleak and defeatist. (JR) Read more

Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will Be Done

Anthony Thomas’s documentary, an English/American coproduction made for English TV, is a humorous and disturbing look at the fundamentalist religious movement in the U.S. The film examines why and how this movement has grown, and what its political implications areincluding its role as a tool of the conservative lobby. This irreverent look at a growing phenomenon, which has been compared to the documentaries of Werner Herzog, was reportedly altered by PBS before they agreed to show it. Read more



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


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


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


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


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


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