Monthly Archives: June 1989

22nd International Tournee Of Animation

Like the earlier versions of this annual animation anthology, this is a worldwide selection, including shorts from Canada, Czechoslovakia, Estonia, France, Japan, the Netherlands, the USSR, Yugoslavia, and the U.S. (especially prominent this time). Once again, the work is lively and varied, although if you’ve seen any of the previous collections, you may find yourself a little worn out by the requisite cuteness and/or nastiness that seem standard by now in most animated shorts, as well as by having to see so many works in a row. I was especially taken by Karen Aqua’s jazzy and angular Kakania, featuring a dance of hieroglyphiclike figures, and Nedjeljko Dragic’s extremely varied and imaginative Pictures From Memory (the longest short included), which follows a life in eastern Europe between 1940 and 1960; among the ones that irritated me the most were the slew of grotesque (but by now familiar) Bill Plympton blackout gags and Jan Kounen’s abrasively pixilated Gisele Kerozene. (JR) Read more

Fright Night Part 2

Softheaded and silly vampire farce, for undiscriminating audiences only. Roddy McDowall and William Ragsdale are back as the vampire killers; costars include Traci Lin, Julie Carmen, Russell Clark, Brian Thompson, and Jonathan Gries; Tommy Lee Wallace directed from a script he authored along with Miguel Tejada-Flores and Tim Metcalfe. For my money, it’s not a patch on Vampire’s Kiss, but it’s certainly closer to the usual cliches of the genre. 104 min. (JR) Read more

Dead Poets Society

Peter Weir (Witness) directs Robin Williams as a popular, freethinking English teacher in a strict boys’ prep school who inspires his students to think for themselves. The major problem with this 1989 male weepie is Tom Schulman’s script, which falters on several counts: the story is supposed to be taking place in 1959, but apart from a couple of rock songs there’s not even an attempt to capture the period; the moral divisions set up between characters are childishly overdrawn; and, worst of all, the behavior shown by the boys and adults frequently reeks of falsity and contrivance, despite a generally able cast that includes Robert Sean Leonard, Ethan Hawke, Josh Charles, Gale Hansen, and Dylan Kussman. (To cite one instance out of many, what teenage boy of your acquaintance would invite all his buddies to surround him while he telephones the girl of his dreams?) Sometimes Weir’s directorial craft makes one overlook some of the wobbles of this teetering vehicle, but at other times he makes things worse by stretching out some of the dramatic climaxes interminably. Williams is as good as ever, but as in Good Morning, Vietnam, the concerted effort to soften his rough edges doesn’t really enhance his talent. Read more

The Chelsea Girls

The most celebrated Andy Warhol feature (1966), and for many the best, is made up of a dozen 33-minute reels that are projected two at a time, side by side. The sound varies according to chance and the projectionist, as only one sound track is played at a time. The people shown include such Warhol superstars as Nico, Ondine, Gerard Malanga, Marie Menken, Mary Woronov (who later costarred in Eating Raoul), Ingrid Superstar, Brigid Polk, and International Velvet. All apparently residents of Manhattan’s Chelsea Hotel, they engage in a number of activities and dialogues for 210 minutes, and the results are often spellbinding; the juxtaposition of two film images at once gives the spectator an unusual amount of freedom in what to concentrate on and what to make of these variously whacked-out performers. (JR) Read more

Calling The Shots

A watchable and interesting documentary by Janis Cole and Holly Dale about women who make moviesmainly directors, but also a few screenwriters, producers, and actresses. Among the women interviewed are Lee Grant, Susan Seidelman, Lizzie Borden, Joyce Chopra, Joan Micklin Silver, Martha Coolidge, Joan Tewkesbury, Amy Heckerling, Claudia Weill, Sandy Wilson, Jeanne Moreau, Sherry Lansing, Agnes Varda, Penelope Spheeris, and, more briefly, Chantal Akerman and Lea Pool; some filmmakers, such as Coolidge and Wilson, are also shown at work. The main limitation of this intelligent if somewhat breezy survey is its overall slant toward the contemporary North American mainstream; while a few pioneers are evoked, figures as important as Maya Deren, Leni Riefenstahl, Vera Chytilova, and such contemporary experimental filmmakers as Yvonne Rainer, Leslie Thornton, and Trinh T. Minh-ha go unmentioned. Still, the exploration of contemporary attitudes towards women making movies is broad and informative (1988). (JR) Read more

Beauty #2

One of the liveliest and most conceptually interesting of Andy Warhol’s early sound featurettes, this 66-minute movie made from a single camera setup features Edie Sedgwick and Gino Piserchio on a bed, mainly in their underwear, and the voices of Gerard Malanga and Chuck Wein offscreen, Wein supposedly directing the film (1965). On the same program, Warhol’s 39-minute Eat (1963), a beautiful silent work that features painter Robert Indiana eating mushrooms meditatively while looking at everything but the camera, and a friendly cat that occasionally joins him in the frame. Despite the evident minimalism of this portrait, the fact that Indiana’s sitting in a swiveling rocking chair introduces a lot of variations in the camera’s relative positionthe equivalents, in fact, of pans, tilts, and tracking shots. (JR) Read more