Daily Archives: April 22, 1988

Nine Letters to Berta

Made the year after Bertolucci’s Before the Revolution (1965), Basilio Martin Patino’s touching first feature, set mainly in the university town of Salamanca, Spain, echoes and parallels that film in many respects, although here the loss of religious faith plays the role of a betrayed Marxism. Cast in the form of nine letters written to a young woman met by the hero (Emilio Gutierrez Caba) during his only trip abroad, the film has a loose, episodic structure built around various chapter headings (“The Family Rosary,” “One Sunday Afternoon,” “A World of Happiness,” etc), and like many of the other youthful and sensitive European movies of this period, the impact of the French New Wave is salutary in the fresh use of film language: fast editing, slurred motion, and a freezing and unfreezing of certain images that makes them reverberate like pictures pasted into a scrapbook. Delicately acted and directed with a keen affection for the characters, this is surely one of the best Spanish films of the Franco period. (Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Thursday, April 28, 8:00, 443-3737) Read more

Lady in White

Ray Bradbury appears to be the presiding influence over this nostalgic fantasy-thriller about childhood and ghosts, written, directed, produced, and scored by Frank LaLoggia (Fear No Evil). Set in a small town in the early 60s, the plot centers on an apparition of a little girl seen by the ten-year-old hero (Lukas Haas) while locked in his school’s cloakroom during Halloween. Although the results are a bit overextended, the film is still something of a rarity nowadays: an evocative, poetic horror film without a trace of gore (and in this respect, closer to a Val Lewton film of the 40s like The Curse of the Cat People than any contemporary models). The Italian-American family detail is nicely handled, and much of Russell Carpenter’s photography is exquisite. With Len Cariou, Alex Rocco, and Katherine Helmond. (Chestnut Station, Golf Mill, Woodfield, River Oaks, Orland Square, Lincoln Village, Ford City, Deerbrook, Yorktown, Chicago Ridge, Evanston, Hillside Mall, Norridge) Read more


Fans of Ross McElwee’s Sherman’s March (1985) will undoubtedly recall the character Charleen Swansea, the filmmaker’s friend and former teacher, and will be pleased to discover that McElwee devoted an entire feature to this memorable woman back in 1977. An unorthodox fifth-grade teacher, small publisher, and poet who at one point was a protege of Ezra Pound, Charleen is an exuberant and outspoken southern eccentric, and McElwee’s affectionate portrait (which, unlike Sherman’s March, doesn’t do double duty as a portrait of the filmmaker) gives her plenty of opportunities to show her special qualities–which she takes full advantage of. Much of the film focuses on her inspired methods of teaching poetry and the difficulties of her relationship with a man who’s much younger than her. Larger than life and bursting with energy and intelligence, Charleen makes a fascinating film subject and indirectly gives us a glimpse of certain southern virtues that most accounts of the south gloss over. McElwee will be present at the screening. (Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Saturday, April 23, 6:00, 443-3737) Read more