Daily Archives: July 1, 1993

Histoire(s) Du Cinema

Jean-Luc Godard’s ten-part video series, made for French TV. Daunting, provocative, and very beautiful, it looks at the history of the 20th century through cinema and vice versa, mainly through a rich assortment of film clips (sometimes several at once), sound tracks, poetic commentary (with plenty of metaphors), and captions. Indispensable. In French with subtitles. (JR) Read more

Tom And Jerry: The Movie

Given that the famous cartoon cat and mouse speak and sometimes play second fiddle to a little-girl heroine, this doesn’t have much to do with the old Tom and Jerry cartoons. It has a lot more to do with screenwriter Dennis Marks and producer-director Phil Roman trying to imitate the late-80s animation successes of Disney. Overplaying wealth and villainy, it has a so-so Henry Mancini score that may remind you of his work on Hatari! and overall a better feeling for action than character (1992). 84 min. (JR) Read more

Poetic Justice

Though it’s not unlikable, John Singleton’s second feature (Boyz N the Hood was his first) is an unholy mess in almost every respect. There’s a line in the final credits saying that, for the purposes of copyright, Columbia Pictures is the author of this film, so maybe Columbia and not Singleton should be held accountable for the meandering and badly told (if occasionally suggestive) love story about a hairdresser-poet (Janet Jackson) and a postman (Tupac Shakur) from South Central LA who take a trip up to Oakland in a mail truck with another couple, bringing all their ghetto-bred problems with them. The title comes from the poet’s name, Justice, and though Jackson shows a lot of charm in the role, it’s often hard to relate the poetry she’s supposed to have written (which is read mainly offscreen) to her character. (In fact, the poems are by Maya Angelou, who’s around to play a bit part.) After a deceptively funny and offbeat beginning, the movie keeps restarting; each new start shows some promise, and Singleton’s talent never really deserts himbut the parts don’t come together to create a unified story. With Regina King, Joe Torry, Roger Guenveur Smith, and Tyra Ferrell. (JR) Read more

The Outlaw

One of the weirdest westerns of all time, reflecting the eccentricities of its producer and credited director, Howard Hughes, who completed it only after firing Howard Hawks. When it came out in 1943 it was trumpeted and sometimes banned for its sexual audacity (Jane Russell debuts in a brassiere designed by Hughes himself), yet much of the plot now makes it seem like a closet gay movie. Made two years prior to release, it was scripted by Jules Furthman and shot by Gregg Toland, which gives it some classbut by and large it’s enjoyable today chiefly as a camp hoot. With Jack Buetel (the forgotten lead, who seems to care more about his horse than Russell), Walter Huston, and Thomas Mitchell. (JR) Read more


Sally Potter’s well-appointed fashion show and pithy, symmetrical period spectacle (1993, 92 min.), loosely adapted from Virginia Woolf’s fanciful novel, which follows the adventures of the eponymous protagonist (Tilda Swinton)a man who eventually turns into a womanfrom 1600 to the present. Compared with Potter’s bold, beautiful, original, and witty (albeit unpopular and seldom seen) first feature, The Gold Diggers, this is safe, crowd-flattering stuff, the Driving Miss Daisy of art picturesa film with practically no ideas at all, but lots of fancy trimmings (including Peter Greenaway’s production designers and Derek Jarman’s costume designer) and plenty of attitude. As a drag show, it’s far from inspired (though Quentin Crisp’s Queen Elizabeth I is a lot more convincing than Swinton’s male Orlando), and as upscale entertainment it’s about as radical as Woody Allen. Yet Potter’s musical score, written in collaboration with David Motion, is lovely. With Billy Zane, Lothaire Bluteau, John Wood, Charlotte Valandrey, and Heathcote Williams. (JR) Read more

Mozart Quartier

In Jean-Pierre Bekolo’s 1992 comedy-fantasy charmer from Cameroon, a young girl betrays too much curiosity for her age, and a witch transforms her into a man. He/she promptly joins a male gang and starts romancing the daughter of a neighborhood copherself. The plot carries a few echoes of George Axelrod’s play Goodbye Charlie, but what’s most notable about this first feature is how much its eclectic style owes to Spike Lee, even though its folkloric content and sexual politics are quite different. Bekolo’s overall handling of his cast is delightful. With Sandrine Ola’a, Serge Amougou, Jimmy Biyong, and Essindi Mindja. (JR) Read more

Move Over, Darling

This comedy, about a wife returning from five years on a desert island to discover that her husband has remarried, began as Something’s Got to Give, the last feature Marilyn Monroe worked on, directed by George Cukor. It wound up as a Doris Day vehicle with James Garner, Thelma Ritter, and Polly Bergen, directed by Michael Gordon (1963). (JR) Read more

Montparnasse 19

A transitional film (1958, 108 min.) between the French tradition of quality and the New Wave, this slick biopic about the last year or so in the life of the painter Amedeo Modigliani (the title alludes to the bohemian quarter and the year, 1919) is a highly personal effort by one of the idols of the New Wave generation, the neglected Jacques Becker (Casque d’or, Le trou). At once clunky, overproduced, and naive, it’s also sincere and moving, in spite of its faults as a statement about the gulf between serious artists and marketers. It’s both helped and hindered by its glamorous cast: Gerard Philipe, Anouk Aimee, and Lilli Palmer. Jean-Luc Godard memorably defended this film when it came out by writing, Everything rings true in this totally false film. Everything is illuminated in this obscure film. For he who leaps into the void owes no explanations to those who watch. In French with subtitles. (JR) Read more

Modesty Blaise

Joseph Losey’s adaptation of the comic strip, starring Monica Vitti as a spya deliriously campy and at times angry parody of James Bond films, pop art, op art, and a lot else that was modish in 1966. It’s too perverse at times to work entirely on its own terms, but the lively castincluding Dirk Bogarde, Terence Stamp, and Harry Andrewskeeps it watchable. It certainly survives as an interesting period piece. 119 min. (JR) Read more

Memoirs Of A River

Hungarian filmmaker Judit Elek’s ambitious and serious, but also ponderous, long (147 minutes), and mainly slow-moving account of the last Jewish ritual murder trial in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which took place in 1882 after several Jewish raftsmen in the Carpathian Mountains were accused of murdering a girl. The film lingers over the beautiful settings, Jewish rituals, the torture of many Jews to extract false testimonies, and the subsequent trial, during which one 14-year-old boy accused his own rabbi father of participating in a ritual murder. Also known as The Raftsmen (1989). (JR) Read more


This 1964 entry is the most enjoyable of the James Bond thrillers starring Sean Conneryperhaps because it’s the most comic and cartoony in look as well as conception. Still, it’s every bit as imperialist and misogynistic as the other screen adventures based on Ian Fleming’s books (among John F. Kennedy’s favorites). Guy Hamilton directed; with Honor Blackman, Gert Frobe, and Harold Sakata. 111 min. (JR) Read more

Delivered Vacant

This documentary feature about gentrification is uncommonly goodmade by School of the Art Institute graduate Nora Jacobson over eight years in Hoboken, New Jersey, in the neighborhood where she still lives. Alert and lucid without a trace of sentimentality, Jacobson focuses on a number of related events, including the torching of rent-controlled buildings (and subsequent condo conversions), and interviews local residents, landlords, developers, activists, and others about what’s going on. An eye-opener (1992). (JR) Read more

Dead Alive

Peter Jackson charts new highs (or lows) in free-flowing gore and nonstop, torrential splatter with this modestly budgeted comic horror extravaganza (1993), originallyand more appropriatelyknown as Braindead. The standard-issue plot unfolds from the poisonous bite of a Sumatran rat monkey in a New Zealand zoo circa 1957. Yet the only meaningful bill of fare here is deliberately stomach-turning showstoppers involving dismemberment, disfigurement, disembowelment, gallons of spewing blood and bile, and related gross-outsmore the stuff of animated cartoons than live action. Ordinarily I don’t care for this kind of thing at all, but something must be said for Jackson’s endless reserves of giddy energy, which are clearly meant to be silly. Written by Jackson, Stephen Sinclair, and Frances Walsh; with Timothy Balme, Elizabeth Moody, Ian Watkin, and Diana Pe Read more

The Color Of Pomegranates: The Director’s Cut

The late Sergei Paradjanov’s greatest film, a mystical and historical mosaic about the life, work, and inner world of the 18th-century Armenian poet Sayat Nova, was previously available only in the ethnically dry-cleaned Russian versionrecut and somewhat reorganized by Sergei Yutkevich, with chapter headings added to clarify the content for Russian viewers. This superior 1969 version of the film, found in an Armenian studio in the early 90s, shouldn’t be regarded as definitive (some of the material from the Yutkevich cut is missing), but it’s certainly the finest we have and may ever have: some shots and sequences are new, some are positioned differently, and, of particular advantage to Western viewers, much more of the poetry is subtitled. (Oddly enough, it’s hard to tell why the new shots were censored.) In both versions the striking use of tableaulike frames recalls the shallow space of movies made roughly a century ago, while the gorgeous uses of color and the wild poetic conceits seem to derive from some utopian cinema of the future, at once difficult and immediate, cryptic and ravishing. This is essential viewing. (JR) Read more

Children Of Fate: Life And Death In A Sicilian Family

Winner of the best-documentary prize at Sundance, this 1992 feature by Andrew Young and Susan Todd updates a 1961 documentary shot by Robert Young (Andrew’s father) and Michael Roemer (The Plot Against Harry, Nothing but a Man) in a slum in Palermo, Sicily, that followed the struggles of a local family plagued with problems. The original black-and-white film was shot for the NBC White Papers series, but was never shown because it was deemed too gritty; this color sequel shows the persistence of many of the problems in the same family. The film is always interesting and often moving, though I was frustrated that it didn’t offer more than passing glimpses of the original. (JR) Read more