Monthly Archives: May 1991

An Unremarkable Life

Amin Q. Chaudri’s U.S. features costars Shelley Winters and Patricia Neal as elderly sisters whose lives are changed when one of them starts dating a Korean-American. We don’t have a review of this film, but word of mouth from colleagues hasn’t been good. Read more

Truth Or Dare

A candid and entertaining look at Madonna’s 1990 Blond Ambition tour that mainly alternates between grainy black-and-white backstage/offstage footage and certain numbers from the touring show that were shot in color. The young director, Alek Keshishian, had been directing music videos since 1986, and this movie looks it, for better and for worse: there’s a nervous tendency to crosscut between scenes and between onstage and offstage footage that keeps things constantly moving but often prevents the numbers and certain documentary segments from being appreciated in their entirety. It generally works better as a mosaic self-portrait (Madonna served as executive producer) than as a concert film, andnot too surprisinglywhat comes across is mainly the star’s likable desire to be both naughty and responsible, conscientious and silly: she’s a prima donna who plays mother hen with her troupe, stoutly defends her show against censors (but seems perfectly willing to have it cut to shreds for the purposes of this movie), and is energetically on at every minute. Warren Beatty, Kevin Costner, and Sandra Bernhard are among the brief celebrity walk-ons (1991). (JR) Read more

Truly Madly Deeply

An English feature written and directed by playwright Anthony Minghella, about a young woman (Juliet Stevenson) stricken by the death of her cellist lover (Alan Rickman) who appears to be revisited by his ghost, this comes across as an English realist variation on the sort of quasi-supernatural stories that producer Val Lewton specialized in during the 40s: that is, the supernatural elements are used to enhance the realistic psychology rather than the other way around. If the relatively prosaic Minghella, making his movie debut, lacks the suggestive poetic sensibility of Lewton, he does a fine job in capturing the contemporary everyday textures of London life, and coaxes a strong performance out of Stevenson, a longtime collaborator. Full of richly realized secondary characters and witty oddball details (e.g., the home video tastes of her late lover’s ghostly male companions), this is a beguiling film in more ways than one. PG, 107 min. (JR) Read more

To Kill A Priest

This film in English by the gifted Polish writer-director Agnieszka Holland (A Woman Alone) is based on the real-life assassination of Solidarity chaplain Father Jerzy Popieluszko by secret police in 1984. While there’s a certain awkwardness inherent in making what is essentially an English-language Polish film on a Polish subject in France with English and American actors, this is a far cry from simple Solidarity agitprop. Holland is interested in exploring the moral complexity and ambiguity of Poland in the early 80s, and sets about this task with a great deal of intelligence and imagination, devoting even more attention to the police captain (Ed Harris in one of his better performances) who kills the priest (Christopher Lambert) than she does to the priest himself. In contrast to the kindergarten-level philosophizing of Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors, this is a film of some depth with a genuine sense of ethical nuance. Holland is generally well served by her cast, which also includes Joanne Whalley, Joss Ackland, Tim Roth, and Peter Postlethwaite (the father in Distant Voices, Still Lives). (JR) Read more

Three Shorts

A program of three experimental shorts, all of them seminal: Marcel Duchamp’s Anemic Cinema (1926), George Landow’s Institutional Quality (1969), and Hollis Frampton’s Zorns Lemma (1970). Read more

Three Bewildered People In The Night

Described as a beatnik movie for the 80s, this new feature by writer-director Gregg Araki concerns an alienated gay performance artist named David, a video artist named Alicia, and a would-be actor and photographer named Craig who is ambivalent about his sexuality. Set in Los Angeles locations and made on a shoestring budget, this first feature was recently acclaimed at the Locarno Film Festival, and will be receiving its first U.S. showing here, with director Araki present to answer questions. Read more

Thelma & Louise

A coffee-shop waitress (Susan Sarandon) and a beleaguered housewife (Geena Davis) in the southern sticks take off for a weekend holiday and eventually find themselves fleeing the law and society in a buoyant feminist road movie (1991) directed by Ridley Scott from a script by Callie Khouri. Scott, who usually offers a style in search of a subject, makes the most of the southwestern landscapes in handsome ‘Scope framing and shows an uncharacteristic flair for comedy in fleshing out Khouri’s script with a memorable cast of male rednecks (including Harvey Keitel, Michael Madsen, Christopher McDonald, Stephen Tobolowsky, Brad Pitt, and Timothy Carhart); his eye may get a little fancy and fussy in spots, but this is still one of his better pictures after Blade Runner, and Sarandon and Davis bring a lot of unpredictable verve and nuance to their parts. R, 129 min. (JR) Read more

Ten Little Indians

The second of three movie versions of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, directed by George Pollock in England in 1965. (Rene Clair did the first version in 1945; Peter Collinson did the third in 1975.) This one stars Hugh O’Brian, Shirley Eaton, Fabian, Leo Genn, Stanley Holloway, Wilfrid Hyde-White, and Daliah Lavi. Read more

Quo Vadis

MGM’s opulent version of ancient Rome circa 1951, with Peter Ustinov at his most whimsical doing honors as the mad Nero. A lot of Christians are persecuted too. With Robert Taylor, Deborah Kerr, Leo Genn, Patricia Laffan, and a Miklos Rozsa scores, one of his better ones as I recall. Directed with some pizzazz by Mervyn LeRoy. (JR) Read more


High allegory in the icy north from Robert Altman; I haven’t seen this 1979 drama, but practically everyone except Altman’s diehard fans seems to find it a grueling slog. Set in a frozen city of the future, it takes its title from a board game using dice that Paul Newman, seeking to avenge some family deaths, winds up playing. With Bibi Andersson, Fernando Rey, Brigitte Fossey, and Vittorio Gassman. 110 min. (JR) Read more

Paint Your Wagon

Joshua Logan directed this Lerner-Loewe musical about the California gold rush, casting largely nonsingers and nondancersLee Marvin, Clint Eastwood, Jean Sebergand some people accused him at the time (1969) of helping to kill off the movie musical in the process. Paddy Chayefsky, of all people, was put in charge of the script; Harve Presnell and Ray Walston costar. Read more

Only The Lonely

A lonely Chicago cop (John Candy) who lives with his widowed mother (Maureen O’Hara), a female Archie Bunker type who dominates his life, falls in love with an introspective funeral parlor worker (Ally Sheedy) and tries to break free of his mother’s hold. A loose 1991 remake of Marty by writer-director Chris Columbus (Home Alone) that proves that Candy is no Ernest Borgnine and Columbus neither a Paddy Chayefsky writer nor a Delbert Mann director, this mechanical piece of emotional manipulation is phoniest when it is making the biggest show of being sincere. While it’s nice to see O’Hara back and in fine form, the film insists on reminding us of the worst aspects of her performances with John Ford rather than allowing her to work independent of this legacy. Typically, this movie is brave enough to indicate that the hero and heroine have premarital sex but too gutless to show them in bed together, and shameless enough to work in a product placement for Florsheim shoes in the midst of Candy’s most emotional speech. Also on hand, and meant to be as cute as bugs, are Anthony Quinn, Jim Belushi, Kevin Dunn, Milo O’Shea, and Bert Remsen. (JR) Read more

The Killer

A lot of claims have been made for this campy bloodbath concerto (1989) by Hong Kong director John Woo, and I must admit that he’s even better than Brian De Palma at delivering emotional and visceral excess with staccato relentlessness. The gun-battling hero (Chow Yun-fat) struggles to raise money to restore the sight of a nightclub singer he was responsible for blinding (Sally Yeh); meanwhile, he forms an even more amorous bond with a cop (Danny Lee). The world being celebrated and exercised is essentially a ten-year-old boy’sthe loving epithets shared by killer and cop are Dumbo and Mickey Mousewhich makes it a pity that this will be seen mainly by cynical older folks. But Woo is certainly no slouch when it comes to orchestrating mayhem. In Japanese and Cantonese with subtitles. R, 110 min. (JR) Read more

The Karate Kid Part Iii

Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita are back again as the young martial arts specialist and his Oriental teacher, and, for the third time around, John Avildsen (Rocky) directs them. Unfortunately, the pattern has so calcified that Gene Autry westerns seem like models of moral complexity by comparison. For the plot to work this time, Daniel (Macchio) has to be dumb enough to believe in an evil environment-polluting millionaire (Thomas Ian Griffith) who poses as a karate instructor. The villain mistrains the hero so that he’ll be hurt and humiliated in a match with nasty Mike Barnes (Sean Kanan). Robert Mark Kamen, as usual, is responsible for the script, with heaping spoonfuls of pseudoprofundity. (JR) Read more

Journey Of Hope

Though it won a 1990 Oscar for best foreign film, this isn’t too bad. A family of Kurds tries to emigrate from Turkey to Switzerland for a better life, but border hassles grow into an ordeal worthy of The Grapes of Wrath or The Wages of Fear. Swiss director Xavier Koller broaches the issues of racism and xenophobia in western Europe but dilutes his own message with a kindly Swiss trucker (Mathias Gnadinger) so good-hearted that he can make up for the gruff laws and attitudes of his compatriots. Koller collaborated on the script with Feride Cicekoglu; with Necmettin Cobanoglu, Nur Surer, Emin Sivas, and Yaman Okay. In Turkish and German with subtitles. 114 min. (JR) Read more