Monthly Archives: December 1993


A 16-year-old French girl (Ann Zacharias) writes a best-selling pornographic novel that she publishes under a pseudonym, and when she finds herself financially, sexually, and emotionally exploited by the publisher (Samy Frey), she concocts an elaborate revenge scheme. Like many other Nelly Kaplan features, this 1979 comedy is dominated by audacious fantasies of revenge against manipulative men; it also projects an undeniable eroticismnot surprising given that the plot is loosely based on a story by the author of Emmanuelle, though it’s a far cry from that pornographic model. (JR) Read more

Heaven And Earth

Oliver Stone completes his America-and-Vietnam trilogy (which includes Platoon and Born on the Fourth of July) with this 1993 adaptation of two nonfiction books by Le Ly Hayslip, When Heaven and Earth Changed Places and Child of War, Woman of Peace, about her life in Vietnam and the U.S. Newcomer Hiep Thi Le stars as Le Ly, Joan Chen plays her mother, Dr. Haing S. Ngor her father, Tommy Lee Jones the U.S. Army sergeant she marries, and Debbie Reynolds the sergeant’s mother. Read more

What’s Eating Gilbert Grape

Even if you have a taste as I do for movies about dysfunctional families, you may be a little put off by the Grapes in this 1993 adaptation by Peter Hedges of his own novel: no father, 500-pound mother, mentally disabled son (especially good work by Leonardo DiCaprio), and two daughters, as well as Johnny Depp to more or less hold things together. This is directed by Lasse Hallstrom (My Life as a Dog), and his feeling for the look and mood of a godforsaken midwestern town is often as acute as Sven Nykvist’s cinematography. Juliette Lewis plays the out-of-town girl Depp takes a shine to once he starts getting tired of the married woman (Mary Steenburgen) he’s involved with, and while the picture is too absentminded to explain what it is that makes Lewis move in and out of town, she and Depp make a swell couple. There are other rough edges as far as plot is concerned, but I liked this. With Darlene Cates, Laura Harrington, Mary Kate Schellhardt, Kevin Tighe, and Crispin Glover. PG-13, 118 min. (JR) Read more


Kurt Russell plays Wyatt Earp and Val Kilmer plays Doc Holliday in this 1993 western based on an old story set in Tombstone, Arizona; Bill Paxton and Sam Elliot costar as Earp’s brothers. Written by Kevin Jarre (Glory) and directed by George P. Cosmatos, this has plenty of designer gore to go with its periodic spurts of bloodletting, and a lot of care and attention were obviously devoted to selecting locations, designing sets, and grooming handlebar mustaches. Much less attention went to making one believe that any of the events took place circa 1879, but at least the bursts of action keep coming, and most survive Cosmatos’s addiction to smoldering close-ups. For a weepy death scene, Jarre borrows a famous gesture from Only Angels Have Wings, but usually he’s content to show how ornery critters like to shoot one another for the fun of it. With Michael Biehn, Powers Boothe, Robert Burke, Dana Delany, Stephen Lang, Joanna Pacula, Michael Rooker, Billy Zane, and Charlton Heston; none other than Robert Mitchum supplied the opening and closing narration. (JR) Read more

The Pleasure Of Love

Nelly Kaplan’s 1991 feature, far from her best, follows the frustrations of an egotistical French Don Juan (Pierre Arditi) who’s brought to a tropical island plantation in the 30s to tutor a teenage girl. While waiting for her to show up, becomes sexually involved with the three women in charge; he thinks he’s in control of the situation, but gradually realizes that things are not as they seem. As much of her earlier work (A Very Curious Girl, Nea) shows, Kaplan has a talent for dreaming up and articulating various feminist revenge fantasies; what’s disappointing this time around is the meandering and rather contrived script, written with Jean Chapot. With Francoise Fabian, Dominique Blanc, and Cecile Sanz de Alba. (JR) Read more


Even a good performance by Tom Hanks and noble intentions can’t save this mainstream look at AIDS from the worst effects of nervous committeethink. A top Philadelphia lawyer (Hanks) who happens to be gay is fired by his firm (headed by Jason Robards) when it’s discovered that he has That Disease. Hanks decides to sue and winds up hiring a homophobic lawyer (Denzel Washington) to fight the opposition, led by Mary Steenburgen. You may be hoping for an exciting courtroom drama a la Otto Preminger, but all screenwriter Ron Nyswaner and director Jonathan Demme can come up with are simplistic formulas and cardboard character studies; it’s symptomatic that the filmmakers don’t even have the guts to show Hanks and his lover (Antonio Banderas) kissing. Clearly, this 1993 movie isn’t for people who know anyone with AIDS; it’s for people who know people who know people who know people with AIDS. 125 min. (JR) Read more


Based on a play by John Galsworthy, this 1933 British feature about anti-Semitism stars Basil Rathbone as a wealthy Jewish businessman sued for slander after he accuses an army officer (Miles Mander) of stealing 100 pounds from his wallet during a weekend house party for aristocrats. It might be argued that the film itself isn’t entirely free of anti-Semitism; as Frank S. Nugent wrote in the New York Times at the time, Rathbone’s Shylock in modern dress . . . gets his pound of flesh in this drama, but finds his triumph empty, which correctly implies that the character is something of a stereotype from the outset. Yet Galsworthy’s study in tribal loyalties has some less-than-obvious points to make, and Basil Dean’s direction shows some flair and genuine cinematic panache. A fascinating relic. (JR) Read more


A pleasantly unpretentious low-budget musical from Zimbabwe (1990), written and directed by Michael Raeburn, author of a well-known book about Zimbabwe, We Are Everywhere. The plot concerns a sort of working-class rural Candide called UK (Dominic Makuvachuma), who falls out of a taxicab and then falls in love with the woman he gazes up at when he comes to, Sofi (Sibongile Nene). He’s determined to marry her, but her father insists on a bride price, an expensive stereo and a lot of cash. UK sets out to obtain them, but has to contend with both his traditional guiding spirit (Winnie Ndemera), who wants him to earn money for his parents in the countryside and to keep her floating in beer, and Sofi’s vindictive boyfriend (Farai Sevenzo). The prerecorded music is by Oliver Mtukudzi and other Zimbabwe pop stars. (JR) Read more

In The Name Of The Father

Daniel Day-Lewis plays Gerry Conlon, a real-life Irishman wrongly sentenced to life in prison for the IRA bombing of a London pub in the mid-70s, and Pete Postlethwaite plays his father, who was also jailed. Adapted by director Jim Sheridan and Terry George from Conlon’s book, this 1993 movie falls over backward trying to avoid taking a political position and seems a few years off in its depiction of hippie London. But the acting’s so good it frequently transcends the simplicities of the script, and whenever Day-Lewis or Postlethwaite is on-screen the movie crackles. Emma Thompson is on hand as a lawyer who becomes interested in the Conlons’ case after they’re convicted. 127 min. (JR) Read more

Faraway, So Close!

Wim Wenders’s flat-footed, long-winded sequel to Wings of Desire gives us more adventures of angels (fallen and otherwise) in Berlin, as well as some mainly heavy-handed attempts at humor. Many of the same actors are backincluding Otto Sander, Bruno Ganz, Solveig Dommartin, and Peter Falkalong with Horst Buchholz, Nastassja Kinski, Heinz Ruhmann, Rudiger Vogler, Willem Dafoe, and, in odd cameo appearances, superstars ranging from Lou Reed to Mikhail Gorbachev (both playing themselves). Some of the old Wenders poetry recurs in spots, but the feeling of a sprawling smorgasbord is fairly pronounced throughout, and Jurgen Jurges’s cinematography can’t match that of Henri Alekan (who appears in a cameo) or Robby Muller, who shot Wenders’s last two features. Incidentally, the title, which like Wenders’s previous Until the End of the World sounds like an awkward translation, is also the title of a Nick Cave song; too bad they didn’t opt for So Near, So Far. (JR) Read more


The first Jurassic Park spin-off. Stupid plot, silly dialogue, cheap special effects, gratuitous gore, over-the-top acting, dinosaurs eating politically correct environmentalistswhat more could you want? Roger Corman produced, which at least gives it the right kind of bad-movie pedigree. (Corman based his earliest cheapo efforts for teenagers on the principle that no matter how dumb you think you are, you can still feel superior to his movies.) Diane Ladd plays the mad scientist who wants to give the world back to dinosaurs and eliminate mankind while she’s at it, which should be a lot funnier than the movie makes it. Adam Simon of Brain Dead fame wrote and directed, basing his work on a novel by Harry Adam Knight and a treatment by John Brosnan. His taste for images of women giving birth to baby dinosaurs shows his clear indebtedness to David Cronenberg, and his apocalyptic finale seems straight out of Night of the Living Deadbut neither reference seems worthy of its source. With Raphael Sbarge, Jennifer Runyon, Harrison Page, and Clint Howard. (JR) Read more

Black Cat

A cheesy, by-the-numbers Hong Kong remake (1990) of La femme Nikita with an elevator-music score, daft subtitles (e.g., My head feels so hurt, I’m sorry for swirling you into trouble), and a reasonable amount of gore. The programmed-killer heroine (Jade Leung), dressed throughout in skimpy or tight outfits, gets a microchip implanted in her brain and is conditioned in prison with torture techniques out of A Clockwork Orange. The story doesn’t so much come to an end as stop, and when it did I was very grateful. Directed by Stephen Shin; with Simon Yam and Thomas Lam. Not to be confused with Point of No Return, an American remake of the same movie. In Cantonese with subtitles. 92 min. (JR) Read more