Daily Archives: May 1, 1992

The Fourth Animation Celebration: The Movie

Twenty-seven shorts from Bulgaria, China, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, the UK, the U.S., and the former Soviet Union. Apart from being an enjoyable selection, this affords an interesting glimpse of what people from other countries think about. Highlights include three very personal tributes to Tex Avery (by John Schnall, Paul de Nooijer, and Gavrilo Gnatovich), a hilarious political allegory from Bulgaria featuring tin cans, and winners of an MTV competition about world problems. (JR)… Read more »

Far And Away

Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman star in old-fashioned hokum on a very high level. This Ron Howard blockbuster about Irish immigration to the U.S. in the 1890s is the sort of thing Hollywood used to do well and more often. Written by Bob Dolman and Howard and shot with Panavision super-70 camera equipment using 65-millimeter stock, this epic utopian fantasy about love overcoming class barriers (complete with a passing nod to It Happened One Night) is designed like a triptych, beginning in rural Ireland (where tenant farmer Cruise falls in with Kidman, the rebellious daughter of his wealthy landlord, when she decides to flee to the U.S.), continuing in Boston (where they share the same room, posing as brother and sister, and he triumphs for a while as a boxer), and concluding in the Oklahoma Territory (where they proceed separately to stake their claims). Never afraid of excess, Howard excels at giving imaginative density to the Boston locations and exploiting the chemistry between the two leads; he also shows a nice aptitude for storytelling. Sometimes it’s hard to tell what’s mere overreaching and what’s nostalgia for Hollywood’s former grandiloquenceHoward certainly seems to love his fancy corkscrew crane shotsbut this remains perhaps the most enjoyable of his features.… Read more »

Falling From Grace

Rock performer and composer John Mellencamp directs and stars in a feature about his hometown, Seymour, Indiana, that was written by his longtime friend Larry McMurtry. Mellencamp plays a California-based country music singer who comes home with his wife (Mariel Hemingway) for his grandfather’s 80th birthday and becomes involved in the various problems of his family and his old friends; with Claude Akins, Kay Lenz, Dub Taylor, and Larry Crane. Curiously, although this film was well received by some critics in New York and elsewhere when it opened, it was unloaded locally without press screenings at second-run theaters; once again the message appears to be that Chicago doesn’t count in the wider scheme of things.… Read more »

Captive Wild Woman

A 61-minute Universal programmer from 1943, directed by Edward Dmytryk, in which John Carradine turns an orangutan into a beautiful woman (Acquanetta) who goes nuts because of unrequited love and kills a lot of men. This was popular enough to spawn two sequels, Jungle Woman and Jungle Captive; with Evelyn Ankers and Milburn Stone. (JR)… Read more »

Alien 3

Although there’s a lot of unpleasantness here to maintain the tradition of this SF thriller’s predecessors, one finds neither the high-tech effects of the first nor the quality direction of the second, and few of the thrills in either; just about all that music-video veteran David Fincher has to show for himself in his feature debut is clumsy elliptical cutting and alien-point-of-view shots. Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) is the only human survivor when her rocket ship crash-lands on a remote lice-ridden planet containing a religious order of maximum security male prisoners; a deadly extraterrestrial winds up on the planet, too, and menaces everybody in sight. It isn’t hard to figure out the rest, but I found it pretty boring. Written by David Giler, Walter Hill, Larry Ferguson, and Vincent Ward; with Charles S. Dutton, Charles Dance, Paul McGann, Brian Glover, and Lance Henriksen (1992). (JR)… Read more »

Locked Up in Time

A fascinating German documentary by Sybille Schonemann about her return to the East German penitentiary where she spent a year as a political prisoner before Germany’s reunification. In addition to restaging portions of her own arrest and incarceration, she films her confrontations with the officials who brought unspecified charges against her, the secret police who arrested her, and the prison matrons and warden. It’s as if Kafka’s Joseph K. went back and tried to conduct rational and even-tempered interviews with the bureaucrats who condemned him–most of the people she speaks to are friendly, vague, evasive, and forgetful, and something about the state apparatus they were a part of courses through the film like a chilly draft (1991). A Chicago premiere, cosponsored by the Goethe-Institut; Schonemann will be present at both Saturday screenings. (Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Saturday, May 2, 6:00 and 8:15; Sunday, May 3, 1:00 and 3:00; and Tuesday, May 5, 6:00; 443-3737)… Read more »

All the Vermeers in New York

Jon Jost’s ravishing independent feature about art, money, and loneliness in Manhattan–beautifully shot in ‘Scope by Jost himself and with a wonderful, Gil Evans-ish big-band jazz score by Jon A. English–can be viewed as a kind of companion piece to Jost’s earlier Rembrandt Laughing (1988), which dealt with several friends and acquaintances over several months in San Francisco. The main characters here are three young women who share a spacious apartment–Emmanuelle Chaulet (from Rohmer’s Boyfriends and Girlfriends), Katherine Bean, and Grace Phillips–and a Wall Street broker (Stephen Lack) who loves the Vermeers in the Metropolitan Museum. As in Jost’s other features, the narrative is elliptically constructed–the film seems more concerned with evoking a place, time, and milieu than with a dramatically shaped story–but there’s still a lot of lyrical passion and drama in the sounds, images, and characters themselves (1990). This Chicago premiere complements the comprehensive Jost retrospective that begins next week at Chicago Filmmakers. (Music Box, Friday through Thursday, May 1 through 7)… Read more »