Monthly Archives: November 1992

Simple Men

The third feature by Hal Hartley (The Unbelievble Truth, Trust) stars Robert Burke as a small-time computer criminal who’s just been betrayed by his girlfriend. He teams up with his younger brother (William Sage) to look for their runaway father, a radical activist, and in the course of their search they meet a couple of unusual women, the proprietress of an oyster bar (Karen Sillas) and an epileptic Romanian (Elina Lowensohn). Closer in spirit to the Godardian mannerism of Hartley’s shorts than to his more naturalistic previous features–though with the same impulse toward the manic (and mantric) repetitions of both–this has his best and funniest dialogue to date. It’s not entirely clear where this movie winds up, but it’s a provocative journey. With Martin Donovan and Mark Chandler Bailey. (Music Box, Friday through Thursday, November 27 through December 3) … Read more »

Samantha

Martha Plimpton stars as the title heroine–a classical musician who discovers on her 21st birthday that she’s adopted and undergoes an extreme identity crisis. It’s a quirky enough premise to build a whimsical comedy on, and first-time director Stephen La Rocque, who wrote this with John Golden, sees the situation and the unstereotypical characters with such freshness that he keeps one interested and amused. The other cast members certainly help–Hector Elizondo and Mary Kay Place as the adoptive parents, Dermot Mulroney as a childhood friend and fellow musician, Ione Skye as his huffy girlfriend–and the integral use of chamber music, with Mulroney actually playing his own cello parts, is often delightful. (Pipers Alley) … Read more »

Flirting

Part two of Australian writer-director John Duigan’s trilogy about teenage life in the 60s (which commenced with 1987’s The Year My Voice Broke) follows Danny Embling (Noah Taylor) to a ritzy boarding school, where he becomes involved with Thandiwe Adjewa (Thandie Newton), a beautiful and precocious black girl from Uganda, at a nearby girls’ school. Not only worthy of its fine predecessor, this tender, perceptive, and gorgeously acted memory piece may even surpass subtlety, feeling, and depth of characterization. (Nicole Kidman is also very fine as one of Thandiwe’s classmates.) A winner of many prizes in Australia, this lovely feature probably deserves them all. (Fine Arts) … Read more »

November Days: Voices and Choices

The highly skilled documentarist Marcel Ophuls (The Sorrow and the Pity, Hotel Terminus) turns his sights on the reunification of Germany in this 1990 BBC program, 129 minutes long, to be shown on video. Much of this becomes in effect a critical reassessment of East Germany, with Ophuls skeptically interviewing such former officials as Communist Party chief Egon Krenz and secret police strategist Markus Wolf, and such figureheads as Bertolt Brecht’s daughter Barbara, as well as ordinary East Germans who have crossed into West Germany for the first time. He also punctuates his material with film clips and pop songs, often to make satiric points, and if these whimsical intrusions don’t always work, the nature and subtlety of his inquiry remain fascinating throughout. (Facets Multimedia Center, 1617 W. Fullerton, Friday and Saturday, November 6 and 7, 6:30 and 9:00; Sunday, November 8, 5:00 and 7:30; and Monday through Thursday, November 9 through 12, 6:30 and 9:00; 281-4114) … Read more »

Hard-boiled

John Woo’s violent crime thriller and last Hong Kong production to date (1992) stars Chow Yun-fat as a tough Hong Kong cop who loses his best friend and partner in a teahouse shoot-out and joins forces with a hired killer (Tony Leung) who appears to operate on both sides of the law. Choreographically stunning like most of Woo’s work, especially before he headed West. 132 min. (JR)… Read more »

Simple Men

The third feature by Hal Hartley (The Unbelievable Truth, Trust) stars Robert Burke as a small-time computer criminal who’s just been betrayed by his girlfriend. He teams up with his younger brother (William Sage) to look for their runaway father, a radical activist, and in the course of their search they meet a couple of unusual women, the proprietress of an oyster bar (Karen Sillas) and an epileptic Romanian (Elina Lowensohn). Closer in spirit to the Godardian mannerism of Hartley’s shorts than to his more naturalistic previous featuresthough with the same impulse toward manic (and mantric) repetitionsthis has the best and funniest dialogue of any of his films. It’s not entirely clear where this 1992 movie winds up, but the journey is provocative. With Martin Donovan and Mark Chandler Bailey. R, 105 min. (JR)… Read more »

Samantha

Martha Plimpton stars as the title heroinea classical musician who discovers on her 21st birthday that she’s adopted and undergoes an extreme identity crisis. It’s a quirky enough premise to build a whimsical comedy on, and first-time director Stephen La Rocque, who wrote this with John Golden, sees the situation and the unstereotypical characters with such freshness that he keeps one interested and amused. The other cast members certainly helpHector Elizondo and Mary Kay Place as the adoptive parents, Dermot Mulroney as a childhood friend and fellow musician, Ione Skye as his huffy girlfriendand the integral use of chamber music, with Mulroney actually playing his own cello parts, is often delightful. (JR)… Read more »

Nitrate Kisses

A strikingly shot and edited 1992 black-and-white documentary feature by experimental filmmaker Barbara Hammer, about the effacing of gay experience from official histories, beginning with the life of novelist Willa Cather. Setting offscreen commentaries and conversations against various kinds of archival and new footage (including bold images of lovemaking between women in the 70s), this far-ranging and compelling essay seems limited only by the sound-bite and image-bite format, which gives it a slightly rushed feeling. 67 min. (JR)… Read more »

The Hours And Times

Christopher Munch’s brilliant and concise account of what might have happened during John Lennon and Brian Epstein’s four days of vacation in Barcelona in 1963written, directed, produced, and shot by Munch (who also photographed The Living End) on location in black-and-white 35-millimeter. Visually spare and running for only an hour, this benefits not only from one terrific performance (David Angus as Epstein) and a pretty good one (Ian Hart as Lennon), but also from a filmmaking confidence and lack of pretension that makes every passing nuance register keenly (1991). (JR)… Read more »

Home Alone 2: Lost In New York

The inevitable sequel (1992) to what the PR flacks described as the most successful comedy and the third-highest-grossing film in motion picture history brings back actors Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, John Heard, and Catherine O’Hara, producer-writer John Hughes, and director Chris Columbus. The action is transferred from suburbia to New York City, but otherwise the filmmakers stick like glue to the formula of the original: a little boy from a well-to-do family left on his own (last time at home, this time in New York City) is threatened by low-life working-class crooks whom he repeatedly foils and tortures, and upscale property values prevail. The new cast members include Brenda Fricker, Tim Curry, Rob Schneider, Dana Ivey, and Eddie Bracken. PG, 120 min. (JR)… Read more »

Waterland

A curious Faulknerian tragedy involving a high school history teacher (Jeremy Irons) in Pittsburgh and the stories he tells his class about his family’s threadbare past in the English fens. At the center of his recollections are his feebleminded brother and the sweetheart (Sinead Cusack) the teacher wound up marrying. Not all of it works, but the handling of time is often bold and original, and the performances are quite affecting. Irons, who characteristically dominates, reveals here, as in Dead Ringers and Reversal of Fortune, that he’s more of an auteur than either his writer or director. Directed by Stephen Gyllenhaal from a script by Peter Prince based on a novel by Graham Swift; with Grant Warnock, Lena Headey, Callum Dixon, Ethan Hawke, and Sean McGuire (1992). (JR)… Read more »

Traces Of Red

A better-than-average murder mystery, though as with many of its print equivalents, the surprises make a sizable dent in one’s ability to suspend disbelief. James Belushi stars as a homicide detective around Palm Beach who finds himselfalong with several womenin serious trouble after he testifies against a gangster in court; Tony Goldwyn plays his partner, William Russ his brother (a senatorial candidate), and Lorraine Bracco his girlfriend, a recent widow. Andy Wolk directed, tolerably well, from a script by Jim Piddock. (JR)… Read more »

A Tale Of Springtime

After his Six Moral Tales and Comedies and Proverbs, Eric Rohmer launched a new cycle of films, Tales of the Four Seasons, with this characteristically masterful and low-key talkfest (1989). A young doctor of philosophy (Anne Teyssedre) spends a few days with a new friend (Florence Darel), a musician whose father (Hugues Quester) is living with a student she detests (Eloise Bennett). What seems to be slowly building toward a seduction of the philosophy teacher by the musician’s father actually has more to do with the development of the friendship between the teacher and the musician, and Rohmer unravels the plot coolly and authoritativelyas usual, like the warp and woof of an 18th-century novella. This takes some time to get going, but steadily picks up interest and momentum. In French with subtitles. 112 min. (JR)… Read more »

Fellini’s Roma

An imaginative, highly personal travelogue and essay film by Federico Fellini (1972), one of his best works of this period. It features the filmmaker roaming around the Eternal City with his crew, musing about the recent and distant historical past, running into old chums and acquaintances (such as Anna Magnani and Gore Vidal), and occasionally indulging some flamboyant conceits for their own sake (e.g., the memorable ecclesiastical fashion show). As usual with Fellini, especially from the 70s on, spectacle tends to be everything. In Italian with subtitles. 128 min. (JR)… Read more »

Rock Hudson’s Home Movies

This brilliant hour-long video transferred to film (1992) by independent filmmaker Mark Rappaport (The Scenic Route) is in effect a subversive piece of film criticism that departs from the fictional conceit of Hudson himself (represented through clips from his films and by actor Eric Farr) speaking from beyond the grave about his homosexuality and what this did or didn’t have to do with his countless heterosexual screen roles. Part of what emerges, to hilarious effect, is the extraordinary amount of male cruising and number of barbed allusions to Hudson’s gayness that his movies of the 50s and 60s contain; what also emerges is the sexual ideology of the period. Though much of this essential work is extremely funny, it is also very much about death in relation to movies. 63 min. (JR)… Read more »