Monthly Archives: April 1988

Hallucination Generation

American hippies (including Danny Stone) on the isle of Ibiza learn about LSD from George Montgomery, leading to a crime spree that ends in murder. The main gimmick of this 1966 exploitation item written and directed by one Edward Mann (actually Santos Alcocer) is that the main action is in black and white, the trip sequences in color. A presentation of the Psychotronic Film Society. Read more

Women Of The Avant-garde

A rather loose grouping of four experimental works by women; Leslie Thornton’s extraordinary Adynata (1983)a nonnarrative meditation on the East as viewed and imagined by the Westis alone worth the price of admission. Also included are Shirley Clarke’s Bridges Go Round (1958), Carolee Schneemann’s Fuses (1967), and Sharon Couzin’s Deutschland Spiegel (1980). Read more

Woman’s Image In The Movies

A rather intriguing, thematically organized, but varied selection of shorts: D.W. Griffith’s The Unchanging Sea (1910), Germaine Dulac’s seminal The Smiling Madame Beudet (1923), Chicago filmmaker Adele Friedman’s Untitled 1981, Bruce Conner’s Vivian (1965), and Richard Leacock’s 1970 documentary about a New Orleans ball queen, Queen of Apollo. Read more

The Verdict

Paul Newman stars in this 1982 courtroom drama, playing an alcoholic Boston lawyer who manages to clean up his act enough to represent the victims in a malpractice suit against a Catholic hospital. Sidney Lumet’s direction, like David Mamet’s patchy script (which adapts a Barry Reed novel), may not be quite good enough to justify the Rembrandt-like cinematography of Edward Pisoni and the brooding mood of self-importance, but it’s good direction nonetheless; and there are plenty of supporting performancesby James Mason, Jack Warden, Milo O’Shea, Charlotte Rampling, and Lindsay Crouse, among othersto keep one distracted from Newman’s dogged Oscar-pandering. R, 129 min. (JR) Read more

Vanina Vanini

Roberto Rossellini’s 1961 historical romance. By all reports, it’s a key film in Rossellini’s career, marking the turning point between his early neorealist style and the austere historical studies of the late period. Read more

The Unholy

The late Trevor Howard costars with Ben Cross, Hal Holbrook, Ned Beatty, and William Russ in a horror film that pits a New Orleans priest (Cross) against forces of evil that have brutally murdered two of his predecessors at the same parish. Ace screenwriter Philip Yordan (Johnny Guitar, House of Strangers) collaborated on the script with Fernando Fonseca; the Cuban Camilo Vila directed. Read more

Under Satan’s Sun

Maurice Pialat’s high-powered adaptation of Georges Bernanos (whose fiction has previously provided the basis for two Bresson films) won the best film award at the Cannes film festival in 1987, which occasioned a great deal of controversy. A dark film both literally and figuratively, it follows the spiritual crisis of Father Donissan (Gerard Depardieu) and his curious relation to a young woman named Mouchette (Sandrine Bonnaire); Pialat himself plays the father superior. Uncompromisingly rigorous and harsh, Pialat’s remarkable film isn’t for every tasteacceptance of Bernanos’ world isn’t an easy matterbut it is certainly a major work by a major filmmaker, with one of Depardieu’s strongest performances. (JR) Read more

A Time Of Destiny

A mawkish and fairly ludicrous drama set during World War II and its immediate aftermath, scripted by producer Anna Thomas and director Gregory Nava (who teamed up on El Norte). It has the novelty of allowing us to see William Hurt do his damnedest at playing a psychothe rejected son of an Italian immigrant family with a lot of grudges on his mind; Timothy Hutton plays the fellow soldier he’s after (who had the temerity to marry his sister). Nava’s direction strains after fancy effects without ever suspending our sense of incredulity at these contrived goings-on; the photography is nice, but can’t really do much more than gild a rather desiccated lily. With Stockard Channing, Francisco Rabal, and Melissa Leo. (JR) Read more

A Thousand Words

Made for the unthinkable sum of $7,000, Paul E. Garstki’s independent black-and-white Chicago-based feature both profits and suffers from its impoverished budget. On the plus side, a largely postdubbed sound track allows the filmmakers to tell parts of the story through the ingenious economical device of using answering-machine messages and imaginary phone conversations offscreen. A thoughtful use of local talent (stage actors John Ellerton, Warren Davis, and Diana Zimmer as the three leads and lots of local independent filmmakers in secondary parts) and locations also makes the best use of William Holst’s somewhat minimalist script, adapted from a story by Garstki. A reclusive art critic hires a young protege, who moonlights as a surveillance photographer, to go to work on a young woman (an odd plot with faint echoes of The Draughtsman’s Contract and Paul Bartel’s The Secret Cinema, without much of the humor connected to either). The main budgetary drawback is the nearly nonexistent social context; the stilted art-world talk generally fails to convince because there isn’t enough of a world in the film to establish it as either parody or the genuine article, and the characters themselves seem at times excessively limited by the exigencies of the plot. The result, then, is uneven but singulara quirky, rather disturbing little film about voyeurism and loneliness. Read more


Despite a hilarious early sequence, Michael Snow’s 1981 feature isn’t quite the revelation it hopes to beat least in relation to his three previous films about camera movement, Wavelength, Back and Forth, and La Region Centrale. But all of Snow’s films are packed with interesting ideas, and this one is no exception. 90 min. (JR) Read more

A Piece Of Pleasure

Long before Henry Jaglom ever dreamed of such a thing, Paul and Danielle Gegauff scripted a movie about the breakup of their own marriage and decided to play the roles themselves; Claude Chabrol, the director for whom Paul Gegauff wrote all of his major scriptsin which sexism and boorishness were often a kind of specialityagreed to direct. The results are nasty, shocking, and singular: the tyrannical husband begins by insisting on an open marriage, is appalled after his wife starts taking advantage of this opportunity, and winds up being imprisoned for nearly killing her; and, as often happens in Chabrol films, it is the offspringin this case the couple’s little girlwho winds up bearing the brunt of the tragedy. Chabrol and the late Gegauff always made a rather interesting teamthe former’s ironic distance on the latter’s cultivation of megalomania and swinishness always gave their collaborations a fascinatingly ambiguous edge in such films as Les cousins and This Man Must Dieand this film represents in some ways the apotheosis of their work together, for better and for worse. Rarely has such unpleasantness been so compulsively watchable (1976). Read more

The Phantom Of Liberty

Following on the heels of his 1972 masterpiece The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, Luis Buñuel’s penultimate feature, made two years later, struck many critics at the time as a disappointing tapering off for the old master. But time has treated this puzzling provocation well, and today Buñuel’s episodic procession of mini plots may seem even more daring—less immediately accessible to be sure, yet perhaps closer in its radicalism to L’age d’or than any other of Buñuel’s late works. The challenging lack of a narrative center doesn’t prevent this film from having a great deal to say about the modern world and its ambivalent grasp of freedom. With an all-star cast featuring, among many others, Monica Vitti, Jean-Claude Brialy, Adolfo Celi, and Michel Piccoli. In French with subtitles. 104 min. Read more

Permanent Record

Sincere, interminable treacle about a high school rock musician and composer (Alan Boyce) who commits suicide for obscure reasons, and the problems of his best friend (Keanu Reeves) and others in his crowd in carrying on afterward. A lot of talented people, ranging from Eraserhead’s cinematographer (Frederick Elmes) to Choose Me’s costume designer (Tracy Tynan), contributed to this muck, and the saddest thing about it is the fact that a film directed and partially written by women should be so unabashedly sexist in its uncritical treatment of all the major female characters as groupies and dutiful camp followers (played by Michelle Meyrink, Jennifer Rubin, and Pamela Gidley, among others), who need validation from the lead louts (Boyce and Reeves) simply in order to exist. Marisa Silver directed, Joe Strummer (formerly of the Clash) supplied the ho-hum score, and Jarre Fees, Alice Liddle, and Larry Ketron are credited with the lugubrious script. (JR) Read more

Paris, Texas

While far from being Wim Wenders’s best film, this 1984 collaboration with Sam Shepard, about a speechless wanderer (Harry Dean Stanton) returning from the desert and trying to resume relationships with his abandoned and scattered family, has an epic sweep (with superb color photography by Robby M Read more


George Romero’s 1978 quasi-comic movie about a teenage vampire (John Amplas) remains his artiest effort, and in some respects his most accomplished work. To some extent, the film is as much about the boredom of living in a Pittsburgh suburb as it is about anything else. It is also about the death of magic that this banal existence brings about. Despite the usual amounts of gore, this is a surprisingly tender, ambiguous, and sexy film in which Romero’s penchant for social satire is for once restricted to local and modest proportions. With Lincoln Maazel, Tom Savini, and Sarah Venable. (JR) Read more