Daily Archives: July 1, 1989

Macao, or Beyond The Sea

Clemens Klopfenstein’s evocative poetic fantasy proceeds with a highly illogical plot as if it were the most natural thing in the world. A Swiss philologist flying from Zurich to Stockholm suffers a plane crash, swims ashore, and finds himself in Macao, along with the plane’s pilot. After he tries repeatedly and unsuccessfully to phone his wife in Switzerland, he gradually realizes that he and the pilot are dead, and they attempt to escape from their affable oriental paradise. (His wife, meanwhile, discovers that the plane crashed into the Baltic Sea.) Vividly shot by Klopfenstein himself, this haunting and pleasurable Swiss drama has such a compelling mood that you can almost taste it; the dreamy night scenes, shot through a blue filter, convey some of the ambience of tinted silent films. With Max Ruedlinger, Christine Lauterburg, Hans-Dieter Jendreyko, and Shirley Wong (1988). (JR) Read more

Love Your Mama

After a long and successful career in day care, Ruby L. Oliver made this, her first feature, originally known as Leola, in her late 40s (1989). It’s a remarkable debut: assured, tightly focused, surprisingly upbeat considering the number of problems it addresses without flinchingand the best low-budget Chicago independent feature I’ve seen. Set in contemporary Chicago, it concerns a 17-year-old girl from the ghetto whose plans for the future are jeopardized when she becomes pregnant. Her brothers are gradually drifting into a life of crime, her mother is having difficulty maintaining a day-care center without a license, and her stepfather is an alcoholic and philanderer. The plot line is concentrated and purposeful, and the castincluding Carol E. Hall, Audrey Morgan (particularly impressive as the mother), Earnest Rayford, Andre Robinson, and Kearo Johnsonis uniformly fine. In addition to writing, directing, producing, and financing the film, Oliver is credited with the casting, served as set decorator and location manager, and sang as well as wrote the lyrics to the film’s theme song. (JR) Read more

Lonesome Cowboys

Andy Warhol’s last feature as a director (1967) is one of his campiest, but not one of his best; it features Taylor Mead, Viva, and Joe Dallesandro in a western setting (the film was actually shot in Arizona), and the superstars lend it whatever life it has. (JR) Read more

Licence To Kill

James Bond (Timothy Dalton) goes after a mean drug dealer (Robert Davi) south of the borderthis time on a personal vendetta, which means that he isn’t working for the English government, although the usual attributes of the Bond cycle are otherwise preserved. Carey Lowell (more plucky and interesting than the usual Bond bimbos) and Talisa Soto form part of the Bondish decor, Michael G. Wilson and Richard Maibaum wrote the script, and John Glen directed. Despite some shaky narrative continuity and muddled motivations, this manages to move pretty briskly, and the action sequences are generally well handled, especially at the climax. (JR) Read more

Let’s Get Lost

During roughly the last year of jazz trumpeter and singer Chet Baker’s life, fashion and art photographer Bruce Weber (Broken Noses), a passionate fan, followed Baker and his entourage with a film crew, interviewed some of his former wives and lovers, and came up with a two-hour black-and-white documentary (1989) that’s much more attentive to Baker as an emblem and iconfrom a pretty boy of the early 50s to a wasted junkie in the 80sthan to his music, which is almost never heard except as dreamy background. A gripping and affecting film with a striking noirish look (well photographed by Jeff Preiss), but also a rather dumb one that’s both enhanced and limited by Weber’s pie-eyed adoration of his subject. 119 min. (JR) Read more

Kings Row

Possibly the movie most responsible for Ronald Reagan’s success in politics. (He loses a leg and winds up in a wheelchair in this one, declaring Where’s the rest of me?; according to polls at the time of his first gubernatorial election, some Californians voted for him out of pity for this handicap.) Set in a midwestern town prior to World War I, this adaptation by Casey Robinson of Henry Bellamann’s best-selling novel describes the crisscrossing destinies of several localsincluding Ann Sheridan, Robert Cummings, Betty Field, Charles Coburn, Judith Anderson, and Claude Rains; Sam Wood directed (1942). (JR) Read more

In A Glass Cage

A very dark and perverse Spanish feature by first-time director Agustin Villaronga, set during the Franco era. Disturbing and suspenseful, it centers around the sadomasochistic relationship that develops between a former Nazi doctor (Gunter Meisner) who’s in an iron lung and a curious young man named Angelo (David Sust) who becomes his nurse and gradually takes over his household, including his wife and daughter. (JR) Read more

Farewell, My Lovely

The third film version of the Raymond Chandler novel (after Murder My Sweet and The Falcon Takes Over), directed by Dick Richards, and starring Robert Mitchum as Philip Marlowe. This 1975 feature is no sort of miracle, although the overall ambience and the supporting cast (Charlotte Rampling, Harry Dean Stanton, John Ireland, Sylvia Miles) have their moments. 98 min. (JR) Read more

Exquisite Corpses

Newcomer Temistocles Lopez’s low-budget independent feature has been described as a comical musical thriller, but unfortunately the comedy isn’t very funny, the thriller isn’t very thrilling, and the musical numbers, along with the dialogue, are sabotaged by poor sound recording. A trombone player from Oklahoma (Gary Knox, who also furnished the score) goes to New York, is discovered by a gay casting agent (Frank Roccio), and winds up singing in a cabaret and getting involved in an international spy ring. The first third of the movie is a cut-rate Midnight Cowboy, the second third is a cut-rate Cabaret, and the remainder is so muddled that only the Day-Glo lighting and colors in Stephen McNutt’s cinematography offer a modicum of relief. (JR) Read more

The Eve Of Ivan Kupalo

Teeming with visual invention and energy and very much a film of 1968, this Ukrainian film by Yuri Illyenko, the cinematographer on Shadows of Our Forgotten Ancestors, was banned by the Soviet government for almost two decades, apparently because of the satirical treatment of Soviet condescension toward the Ukraine in a sequence near the end. Freely adapted from Gogol’s first short story, the film benefits from a punchy, staccato score by L. Grabovsky. The relation of its style to Chagall that many critics have suggested is apt, for better and for worsethe giddy lightweightness is more than just a matter of characters floating through the air. Although the narrative doesn’t quite get lost in the virtuosity, this is more a work of ornamentation than of storytelling, rendered in lively ‘Scope images. (JR) Read more

Dust In The Wind

Hou Hsiao-hsien’s 1987 Taiwanese feature is less powerful than the preceding A Time to Live and a Time to Die but much better than his subsequent Daughter of the Nile. It follows two young lovers who move to the city (Taipei) to find work because they can’t afford to finish high school, and slowly but irrevocably their relationship is torn asunder. Hou’s feeling for the textures of everyday life, caught mainly in long takes and intricately framed deep-focus compositions, gives this unhurried but deeply affecting drama a deceptively subterranean impact that gradually rises to the surface. The very natural and, for the most part, underplayed performances by nonprofessionals are especially impressive. In Mandarin with subtitles. 109 min. (JR) Read more