Daily Archives: June 1, 1993

In The Line Of Fire

Clint Eastwood plays a Secret Service agentactually Dirty Harry in disguise (with minor variations)emotionally devastated by the assassination of John F. Kennedy, who gets a shot at redeeming himself 30 years later when a loony assassin (John Malkovich) also trained by the Secret Service menaces the president and baits Eastwood about it, for no discernible reason except to keep Eastwood working. If you don’t care about such motivations, this is a pretty good thriller, though not one you’re likely to remember for very long. Wolfgang Petersen (Das Boot) directed from a script by Jeff Maguire; with Rene Russo. (JR) Read more

Guilty As Sin

I’ve never been a Don Johnson fan, but thanks to inspired casting, an effectively gripping and oppressive screenplay by Larry Cohen, and able direction by Sidney Lumet, he dominates this courtroom thriller as one of the most effective feline villains to be seen since Robert Walker in Strangers on a Trainhe’s a glib ladies’ man who induces a successful criminal lawyer (Rebecca De Mornay) to defend him against charges of murdering his wealthy wife. There are plenty of old-fashioned virtues to be found herenot only graceful storytelling, nerve-racking suspense, and a fine secondary role by Jack Warden, but also a feeling of assurance that these filmmakers are going to play by the rules and not sacrifice sense or plausibility for the sake of cheap thrills. With Stephen Lang and Dana Ivey. (JR) Read more

The End Of The Nightstick: Confronting Police Brutality In Chicago

A chilling, informative 1993 video documentary by Peter Kuttner, Cindi Moran, and Eric Scholl about police brutality in Chicago, emphasizing the prolonged effort to get police commander Jon Burge suspended. The many testimonies given here are cogent and to the point, though one may regret the occasional use of actors. On the whole, a terrifying and useful document about some of the ways everyday racism functions locally. 43 min. (JR) Read more

Un Coeur En Hiver

One of the key writer-directors associated with the upper-middle-class and middle-aged French, Claude Sautet has never had a strong impact in this country. This feature, A Heart in Winter, his 13th, gives a fair sense of his craft and his limitations; I find it ably made but a bit on the dull side. Loosely inspired by The Princess Mary story in Lermontov’s novel A Hero of Our Time, the plot concerns two violin makers played by Daniel Auteuil (Jean de Florette) and Andre Dussollier (Melo, Le beau mariage), who work as partners, and the changes wrought in their lives by a young violinist (La belle noiseuse’s Emmanuelle Beart) preparing to record a Ravel trio. Other significant characters include a music teacher (Maurice Garrel) and the older woman (Brigitte Catillon) the violinist lives with. A major thematic interest is the wintry heart (lack of feeling) of Auteuil’s character, and what makes the presentation of this theme relatively novel for American tastes is the lack of psychology underlying it. The performances are all quite good, Beart’s in particular, but whether one really cares about these characters is another matter (1991). (JR) Read more

Claire Of The Moon

Billed as a lesbian love story with a rare happy ending, this 1992 feature by writer-director-producer Nicole Conn pairs a popular satirist (Trisha Todd) and a psychotherapist and author (Karen Trumbo) who specializes in sexual behavior at an annual women writers’ retreat on the Oregon coast. The psychotherapist is openly gay; the satirist is straight but fascinated with, if skeptical about, her cabin mate. Their prickly relationship gradually becomes a testy friendship before gravitating toward love and sex. Despite the obvious sincerity of this project, the stilted acting by most of the secondary cast and the generally undistinguished direction give the script little chance to take root or take flight; the issues are certainly there, but by and large the characters are not. Particularly regrettable is a straight southern writer of steamy best-sellers named Tara O’Hara; the character’s name alone tells you what’s wrong with the conception. By contrast, Faith McDevitt does an interesting job as an older lesbian character who helps run the colony. (JR) Read more

Butoh: Body On The Edge Of Crisis

A fascinating documentary directed by Michael Blackwood (and shot by his brother Christian) about butoh, the Japanese avant-garde dance movement born in the late 50s out of radical street theater in protest against Western incursions into Japanese culture (although Jean Genet, Antonin Artaud, and German expressionist dance all exerted some influence on its founder Tatsumi Hijikata). This subtle and complex movement, as much a philosophy as a style of dance, emphasizing introspection and primal experience and featuring scantily-clad dancers (as well as intricate impersonations) is described and illustrated with great detail and lucidity. (JR) Read more