Monthly Archives: November 1993


This decidedly offbeat 1992 French comedy-drama–Confessions d’un barjo in French–from Jerome Boivin (Baxter) is an adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s Confessions of a Crap-Artist, set in contemporary provincial France rather than 50s California but otherwise reportedly fairly close to the original. The central characters are an unconventional pair of fraternal twins who maintain an unusually close bond into adulthood–a sort of dysfunctional holy fool (Hippolyte Giradot) who serves as narrator and his impetuous sister (Cyrano de Bergerac’s Anne Brochet). The sister marries a fairly conventional aluminum salesman (Diva’s Richard Bohringer), and their life together starts to go haywire after she becomes obsessed with another local couple. Expect the unexpected in the interaction of these five characters, and count on some effective performances along the way. Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Friday, November 26, 6:00 and 7:45, and Saturday, Sunday, and Thursday, November 27 and 28 and December 2, 6:00, 443-3737. Read more

Addams Family Values

This sequel starts off with the same sort of hard-sell blackout gags as its predecessor, most of them built around the premise of Gomez (Raul Julia) and Morticia (Anjelica Huston) having another baby. But once Joan Cusack enters the picture as a nanny-cum-serial-killer/gold digger with her eye trained on Fester (Christopher Lloyd) things get livelier, and by the time the movie reaches its centerpiece–Wednesday (Christina Ricci) and Pugsley (Jimmy Workman) being shipped off to summer camp–the comedy has moved into high gear and become one of the funniest, most mean-spirited satirical assaults on sunny American values since the salad days of W.C. Fields. Paul Rudnick wrote the script and Carol Kane costars as Granny. Burnham Plaza, Golf Glen, Lincoln Village, Water Tower, Ford City, Evanston, Hyde Park, Norridge, Webster Place. Read more

The Piano

Sweetie and An Angel at My Table have taught us to expect startling as well as beautiful things from Jane Campion, and this assured and provocative third feature offers yet another lush parable about the perils and paradoxes of female self-expression–albeit one that seems at times a bit more calculated and commercially minded. Set during the last century, this original story by Campion–which evokes at times some of the romantic intensity of Emily Bronte–focuses on a Scottish widow (Holly Hunter) who hasn’t spoken since her childhood, presumably by choice, and whose main form of self-expression is her piano playing. She arrives with her nine-year-old daughter in the New Zealand wilds to enter into an arranged marriage, which gets off to an unhappy start when her husband-to-be (Sam Neill) refuses to transport her piano. A local white man living with the Maori natives (Harvey Keitel) buys the piano from him and, fascinated by and attracted to the mute woman, agrees to “sell” it back to her a key at a time in exchange for lessons, with ultimately traumatic consequences. Not to be missed. Fine Arts, Old Orchard. Read more

Because You Are a Woman

This powerful feminist Korean docudrama by Kim Yu-jin (1990) demonstrates yet again the near universality of the injustices suffered by rape victims. In this case the victim is a young housewife and mother (Won Mi-kyung) who bites off the tongue of a man who attacks her one night on the street, only to find herself brought to trial and convicted for injuring him; eventually she files for a second hearing in an attempt to clear her name. Methodically directed and forcefully acted, this is one of the strongest contemporary Korean pictures I’ve seen, lucid and angry in its calm indictment. Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Saturday, November 20, 8:15, 443-3737. Read more


This Brechtian biopic by English filmmaker Derek Jarman about Ludwig Wittgenstein encompasses everything from the philosopher’s pampered childhood to his friendships with Bertrand Russell and John Maynard Keynes and his relationships with rough young men. This is probably the best of Jarman’s narrative features to date, presented in a series of spare but powerful tableaux–beautifully and thoughtfully designed, like Joseph Cornell boxes with black backgrounds. With Karl Johnson, Michael Gough, and Tilda Swinton. Music Box, Thursday, November 11, 7:00. Read more

The Nightmare Before Christmas

Tim Burton, working as a producer at Disney, employs stop-motion animation to flesh out a story he first dreamed up while working at the same studio a dozen years ago–a tale about the havoc that ensues when Jack Skellington, the pipe-cleaner hero of Halloweentown, decides to take over the duties of Santa Claus at Christmastime. As adapted by Michael McDowell and scripted by Caroline Thompson, this is at worst a macabre Muppet movie, at best an inspired jaunt. The set designs are ingenious and the songs (music and lyrics by Danny Elfman) are fairly good. Directed by Henry Selick, with the voices of Chris Sarandon, Catherine O’Hara, Elfman, and Paul Reubens. Bricktown Square, Burnham Plaza, Lincoln Village, North Riverside, Water Tower, Ford City, Hyde Park, Old Orchard, Webster Place. Read more


This Brechtian biopic (1993, 75 min.) by the English filmmaker Derek Jarman about Ludwig Wittgenstein encompasses everything from the philosopher’s pampered childhood to his friendships with Bertrand Russell and John Maynard Keynes and his relationships with rough young men. This is quite probably the best of Jarman’s narrative features, presented in a series of spare but powerful tableauxbeautifully and thoughtfully designed, like Joseph Cornell boxes with black backgrounds. With Karl Johnson, Michael Gough, and Tilda Swinton. (JR) Read more

We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story

There’s loads of imagination and energy (if not much taste) in this hyperventilated Spielberg-produced animated feature (1993) — probably too much for the 72-minute running time, inasmuch as characters, settings, and plot situations are sideswiped rather than introduced or developed. (It’s probably a market strategy: selling toys and other products derived from the movie is probably easier if kids feel they’re not getting enough the first time around.) Some prehistoric beasts are visited by a flying saucer, fed brain grain, and transported to contemporary New York City, where they’re befriended by a wily street kid and a lonely debutante. But they’re waylaid by an evil circus master who feeds them brain drain, and they become horrific beasts again. Among the recognizable voices are those of Walter Cronkite, John Goodman, Jay Leno, Martin Short, and Julia Child. Adapted by John Patrick Shanley from a book by Hudson Talbott and directed by several hands. (JR) Read more

Royal Affairs Of Versailles

One of Sacha Guitry’s biggest commercial successes (1954), this 165-minute stuffed pheasant of a movie is a historical pageant in color, notable mainly for its chockablock all-star cast, including Claudette Colbert, Jean-Louis Barrault, Gerard Philipe, Edith Piaf, Orson Welles (as Benjamin Franklin), Brigitte Bardot, Jean Marais, Jean-Pierre Aumont, Charles Vanel, Gaby Morlay, Lana Marconi (Guitry’s fifth wife), and Guitry himself. Going out of its way to ingratiate, it certainly amuses; but being flamboyantly Guitry-esque, it also begs indulgence more than once. Its original title is Si Versailles nous etait conte, which translates roughly as If Versailles Could Talk. (JR) Read more

A Perfect World

On the run from the Texas Rangers in 1963, an escaped convict (Kevin Costner) develops a close friendship with the seven-year-old boy (T.J. Lowther) he takes hostage; Clint Eastwood, who directed, stars as the leader of the Rangers, and Laura Dern plays a savvy, no-bullshit criminologist assisting in the manhunt (1993). A good two-part character study with a terrific performance by Lowther and fine work by Costner that should help resuscitate his image after too many Boy Scout projects, this bogs down when it aims for too much psychology and pathos and arrives at a few false moments and more than a few overextended ones. John Lee Hancock’s script has too many good guy-bad guy setups, and the suave period handling doesn’t always extend to the characters’ behavior, but Eastwood is generally so good at handling narrative, savoring Texas settings, and molding performances that you aren’t likely to mind much. The critique of macho and flawed father figures that he’s been preoccupied with at least since White Hunter, Black Heart continues to be pungent and thoughtful. (JR) Read more

One Nation Under God

A feature-length documentary by Teodoro Maniaci and Francine Rzeznikinteresting and disturbing, though a bit sound-biteyabout efforts to cure homosexuality carried out over the years in the U.S. by psychologists and Christian fundamentalists. Particular attention is given the ex-founders of the fundamentalist Exodus International, two men who wound up falling in love with each other and denouncing the movement. (JR) Read more

The Oak

The farcical and horrific living conditions in Romania during the last year of the Ceausescu dictatorship are the focus of this 1992 French-Romanian production by Lucian Pintilie, based on Ion Baiesu’s novel Bylanta. When her father dies in Bucharest, a young schoolteacher (Maia Morgenstern) erupts in fury against the bureaucracy, then leaves the city to teach in the provinces, where she promptly becomes the victim of a sexual assault. The doctor (Razvan Vasilescu) who befriends her soon becomes the target of corrupt local authorities. Around these starting points Pintilie builds elaborate arabesques of rage and mordant comedy. (JR) Read more

Let’s Go Up The Champs-elysees

Though not really a patch on either his The Pearls of the Crown or The Story of a Cheat, writer-director-star Sacha Guitry’s 1938 Remontons les Champs-Elysees, one of his earliest large-scale historical pageants, is one of his best. It offers an amusing account of Paris’s most famous boulevard from 1617 on, recounted in flashbacks by a schoolteacher played by Guitry, who also impersonates Louis XV and Napoleon III, assisted by a large, illustrious cast. (JR) Read more

Inside Monkey Zetterland

It’s not very funny or insightful or compelling, but it’s very LA, which gives it some minor exoticism in the midwest. The trials and tribulations of an aspiring Jewish-neurotic screenwriter and part-time actor (Steven Astin) are the main bill of fare, and the cast of flaky characters includes his soap-opera-star mother (Katherine Helmond), his estranged girlfriend (Debi Mazar), his hairdresser brother (Tate Donovan), his lesbian sister (Patricia Arquette), his long-absent father (Bo Hopkins), his radical downstairs neighbor (Martha Plimpton), his ditsy across-the-street neighbor (Sandra Bernhard), and his dog (uncredited, but my favorite performance). Astin wrote the script and coproduced, and Jefery Levy directed (1992). (JR) Read more

Daughter Of The Nile

This 1987 Taiwanese feature by Hou Hsiao-hsien (City of Sadness, The Puppet Master) is full of life and energy around the edges, but comes across as rather blurry and undefined at its center. The title refers to a popular Asian comic strip about an American girl who’s in love with an Egyptian king, and the plot largely concerns the relationship between Lin Hsiao-yang (played by Yang Lin, Taiwan’s most popular singer) and her brother Lin Hsiao-fang (Kao Jai), who’s involved with a group of petty gangsters. On the level of plot, Hou has edited his film pretty much against the grain, emphasizing various family relationships and leaving many aspects of the story vague (this leads to some continuity problems: one family pet, for instance, disappears without explanation and is later replaced by another). The director’s Ozu-like framing, which makes full use of domestic interiors, is striking, and the film has many interesting moments. But it’s difficult to shake off an overall sense that this is hackwork by a very talented filmmaker who deserves to be working with better material. (JR) Read more