Monthly Archives: February 1992

The General’s Son

Im Kwon-taek ‘s 1990 gangster film, set in Seoul during the Japanese occupation of Korea, is loosely based on the life of Korean statesman Du-han; apparently it’s more an action picture than a standard biopic. In Korean with subtitles. 130 min. (JR) Read more

The Cry Of The Owl

Adapting the Patricia Highsmith thriller of the same title while transferring the action from an American small town to Vichy, Claude Chabrol returns to the mannerif not quite the distinctionof his late 60s work (e.g., La femme infidele, Le boucher). The plot concerns a solitary figure (Christophe Malavoy) fleeing a vengeful wife (Virginie Thevenet). He spies on a young woman (Mathilda May) from afar until she discovers and is drawn to him, which destroys her own relationship with her fiance (Jacques Penot). Things get much more complicated after that; Jean-Pierre Kalfon (L’amour fou) plays the police detective who eventually steps in. For viewers who enjoy the grim moral ironies of Highsmith, this can be highly recommended; those like myself who find her work gratuitously unpleasant won’t see any reason here to revise their opinion (1987). (JR) Read more

Close My Eyes

A remarkably accomplished and beautiful second feature by English playwright Stephen Poliakoff (Hidden City), this lyrical drama might be described as a period film about the present. The plot concerns an incestuous affair that suddenly develops between a grown brother (Clive Owen) and sister (Saskia Reeves) who grew up with separate parents; the sister, now married to a wealthy entrepreneur (Alan Rickman), insists on ending the affair after the brother becomes hopelessly smitten with her. There’s nothing prurient about Poliakoff’s handling of this subject, though the movie certainly has its erotic moments. The focus is rather on how we live our livesincluding the complications of sex and the chaos of real estate development, in which the brother is professionally involved: Poliakoff uses the incest theme as a pivot for an elegiac, quasi-apocalyptic, and ineffably sad reflection on life in the early 90s. (Though settings and tone are different, this film may remind one in spots of Richard Lester’s underrated Petulia.) Most of the story takes place during an unusually hot English summer, and the settings are almost surreally radiant; the acting of the three leads is edgy, powerful, and wholly convincing, with Rickman a particular standout. The haunting music is by Michael Gibbs (1991). Read more

Auntie Lee’s Meat Pies

Standard-issue trashthe sort of smirky horror exercise where the acting is supposed to be bad, which doesn’t necessarily mean it would have been good if the filmmakers had something other than facetiousness on their minds. In a small town in California, Auntie Lee (Karen Black) and her five sexy nieces have a thriving meat-pie business that depends on the nieces luring men (most of them young and handsome) to their gruesome deaths; most sequences take the form of lengthy seductions followed by decapitation, impalement, and devouring accompanied by ecstatic giggles. Director Joseph F. Robertson, who coscripted this with producer Gerald M. Steiner, is so bent on reminding us that this is meant to be camp that he doesn’t bother to make his film acceptable on any other level. Pat Morita plays the local police chief, and the Bowery Boys’ Huntz Hall turns up as a local farmer. (JR) Read more

As You See

A far-ranging and innovative essay film about technology and seeingintricate, beautiful, dense, and provocativeby the highly original Marxist German independent Harun Farocki. Despite the wealth of material covered, the film is closely structured, rather like a narrative or a musical composition, with themes, images, and sounds recurring in fresh contexts to develop the meanings. A particular point of interest is the examination of some of the directions not taken by mainstream technologies, though vestiges of alternative routes taken by others are also investigated in fascinating detail (1986). (JR) Read more

Article 99

A comedy-drama that actually tries to be political before incoherently copping out, this is about a veterans’ hospital so plagued with economic cutbacks and bureaucratic red taperepresented by villain John Mahoney, with no mention of Reagan or Bushthat the doctors have to break rules and risk suspension to save people’s lives. Directed by Howard Deutch from a screenplay by Ron Cutler, it has a certain energy and sense of outrage, although the sentimentality and casual sexism occasionally thrown into the mixture don’t exactly help. The fairly lively cast includes Ray Liotta, Kiefer Sutherland (unfortunately saddled with a yuppie-makes-good part that no one could play), Forest Whitaker, Lea Thompson, John C. McGinley, Eli Wallach, and Kathy Baker. (JR) Read more

All The Love In The World

The U.S. premiere of a Chicago-made feature by Daniel Currana rather studied film about obsession, attractively shot in black and white by Janusz Kaminski, that goes absolutely nowhere. The tiresome narrator-hero (Tom Blanton) roams about searching for love in the abstract after witnessing the murder of two lovers; eventually he finds love, concretely and instantaneously, when he meets a novelist (Lauren Campedelli), but only after killing at least a couple of people at random, presumably in order to demonstrate how much of a depressive existentialist he is. One can certainly respect Curran’s interest in doing something nonrealistic and provocative, but his patchwork of referencesBreton’s Nadja and Murnau’s Sunrise, intertwining bodies from Hiroshima, mon amour and floating heads from Eraserhead, motiveless killings a la Dostoyevski and Camusnever fuse into anything solid. Though there’s clearly some film savvy and style in the overall drift, the rawness and flatness of the dialogue tend to undermine the images (1991). Read more

The Adventures Of The Great Mouse Detective

A rerelease of the 1986 Disney cartoon feature The Great Mouse Detective with a slight title change. It’s a mystery adventure set in Victorian England, directed by John Musker, Ron Clements, Dave Michener, and Burny Mattinson, with the voices of Vincent Price, Barrie Ingham, Val Bettin, and Susanne Pollatschek. When the film first opened, Patrick Gourley described it in a review in the Reader as easily the best of the animated features since the early 1960s, offering several clear reminders of 30s-style joy of animation and the triumph of skill and imagination over physical reality, while Pat Graham, reviewing it in a capsule, called it new generation Disney, bland generation Disney and a stylistic retreat from the previous year’s more ambitious if less evenly toned The Black Cauldron, although he praised the imaginative sparkle in the crackling Big Ben finale. Decide for yourself. (JR) Read more