David Mamet’s second feature as a director, coscripted with Shel Silverstein, is a little bit of a letdown after House of Games, but as a Mafia fairy tale with a tour de force performance by Don Ameche (soft-pedaling all the way), it is certainly watchable and enjoyable enough in its own right. Over a weekend, a low-ranking Chicago mobster on probation (Joe Mantegna) is asked to coach and chaperone an elderly Sicilian shoe-shine man (Ameche) who, in exchange for money, has agreed to take the rap for a murder he didn’t commit. He decides to take the old man to Lake Tahoe for a final fling before he goes to prison, at which point a series of misunderstandings leads to the Sicilian being mistaken for a big-time Mafia chieftain. Basically a low-key comedy, this exhibits some of the same tart, triple-distilled flavor of Mamet’s dialogue in earlier efforts; what disappoints after the darker and harder edges of House of Games is a slight veering toward slickness and a touch of sentimentality. Despite some attempt to be “cinematic” here, Mamet’s talk is still his strongest suit. With Robert Prosky, J.J. Johnston, Ricky Jay, and Mike Nussbaum, all effective (as is Mantegna). (Chicago Ridge, Golf Mill, River Oaks, Woodfield, Yorktown, Evanston, Fine Arts, Hillside Square) Read more
If this country’s electorate cared more about honesty and truth, this film would be getting more attention in the media than the Bush-Dukakis debates. Unfortunately, stylish cover-up is the name of the game, and this straightforward account of how our country and Constitution are being sold down the river will only interest that portion of the populace that cares about one of the major international political scandals that the presidential campaign and the national media have been virtually ignoring, if not suppressing. Of course this is nothing new: enough of the Watergate story was already apparent before Nixon was reelected to have affected that election if the public had wanted to hear about it. Considerably more of the Iran-contra affair is apparent (including the Reagan-Bush administration’s heavy involvement in the hard-drugs trade) in this first-rate, compulsively watchable documentary–directed by Barbara Trent, scripted by Eve Goldberg, and narrated by Elizabeth Montgomery, with music by Ruben Blades, Richard Elliott, Pink Floyd, and Lou Reed. But from the looks of things, the American public won’t be interested until it’s too late to make a difference. Spectators who feel differently are urged to take a look at this, and to bring their friends. (Chicago Filmmakers, 1229 W. Read more
The 24th Chicago International Film Festival, running from Monday, October 24, through Sunday, November 6, promises fewer programs this year — a little less than 100 versus last year’s 131 — with a good many more repeats; and the screenings occupy a much wider geographic spread, with films showing on the University of Chicago campus and at the Three Penny as well as at the two standbys from last year, the Biograph and the Music Box. Although some countries are unrepresented–including the People’s Republic of China, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Korea, Mexico, and most of Africa and the Middle East–the overall international spread (or sprawl) is as far-flung as ever, including such unlikely coproductions as Rowing With the Wind (Spanish/Norwegian in English) and Consuelo, an Illusion (Chilean/Swedish). The festival is also broadening its plans for question-and-answer sessions with directors after their films; specifics will be announced at the relevant screenings.
Like last year’s selection, the films on offer, taken as an unwieldy whole, make up an indigestible hodgepodge, reflecting neither a critical position nor an all-purpose cornucopia. (A total absence of retrospectives — apart from an Alan Parker tribute, which is surely the last thing that we need — is especially striking and unfortunate.) Read more