Daily Archives: March 23, 1990

The Fourth War

John Frankenheimer still hasn’t regained his stride since his black-and-whlite films of the 60s, but he’s settled down into being a pretty good director of thrillers, and this is one of his best for some time–comparable to the kind of lean, purposeful work he used to do for such 50s TV shows as Studio One and Playhouse 90. On the border between West Germany and Czechoslovakia in November 1988, American and Soviet border control commanders Roy Scheider and Jurgen Prochnow, embittered veterans of Vietnam and Afghanistan, get embroiled in a petty personal war of their own. That’s about all that the plot–adapted by Stephen Peters and Kenneth Ross from Peters’s novel–consists of, but Frankenheimer handles it tersely and professionally, and coaxes an exceptionally good performance out of Harry Dean Stanton as an American general. Gerry Fisher handled the cinematography, and Tim Reid and Lara Harris also costar. (Commons, Oakbrook Center, Golf Glen, McClurg Court, Plaza, Norridge, Ford City, Harlem-Cermak) Read more


Those lucky enough to have seen Jane Campion’s eccentric and engaging shorts (such as Passionless Moments and A Girl’s Own Story) have reason enough to expect her first feature to be a breakthrough for the Australian cinema. But nothing quite prepares one for the astonishing freshness and sheer weirdness of this black comedy about two sisters (Genevieve Lemon and Karen Colston) locked into a deadly struggle. Practically every shot is unorthodox, unexpected, and poetically right, and the swerves of the plot are simultaneously smooth, logical, and so bizarre you’ll probably wind up pondering them days later. Some critics have compared Campion to David Lynch, but apart from a similar taste for the offbeat and a flair for painterly composition, she’s too good and original to be passed off as secondhand–and it’s worth adding that her acute grasp of character and a family’s psychological dynamics is well beyond Lynch’s range. The mad behavior of both sisters may make you squirm, and there are plenty of other things in this picture–including the other characters–to make you feel unbalanced, but Campion does so many beautiful, funny, and unexpected things with our disquiet that you’re likely to come out of this movie seeing the world quite differently than you did before. Read more

Love at Large

Alan Rudolph at his second best is still better than most other American filmmakers around, and this dreamy, romantic comedy-thriller is in many ways his most graceful picture since Choose Me. Tom Berenger plays a private eye hired by a mysterious and glamorous woman (Anne Archer) to follow a man; he sets off after the wrong man (Ted Levine), who has a fascinating secret life of his own, and meanwhile the detective himself is being followed by another woman (Elizabeth Perkins). As usual with Rudolph, the gentle kidding of movie cliches doesn’t preclude a capacity to enjoy them for all they’re worth; Mark Isham once again handles the music (a blend of jazz and pop that partially gravitates around “You Don’t Know What Love Is”), Elliot Davis executes the sliding camera movements, and kissing couples keep popping up as a kind of leitmotiv. Berenger, who intermittently recalls the punkish charm of John Garfield, has never been used to better effect, and the secondary cast–which includes Kate Capshaw, Annette O’Toole, Ann Magnuson, Kevin J. O’Connor, and Ruby Dee–is uniformly fine. The plot has a tendency to wind down rather than keep building, but Rudolph still manages to keep it pleasurable every step of the way. Read more