Monthly Archives: January 1994

Golden Gate

Matt Dillon plays an FBI agent who gets assigned in 1952 to San Francisco’s Chinatown, where he drives a suspected communist agent to suicide, and many years later becomes romantically involved with the dead man’s daughter (Joan Chen). This very PC feature, made for TV’s American Playhouse, is dead on arrival. John Madden directs a script by David Henry Hwang (M. Butterfly), and Bruno Kirby costars; with Teri Polo, Jack Shearer, Tzi Ma, and Stan Egi. (JR) Read more

Garden Of Scorpions

The first feature (1991) of Russian critic and filmmaker Oleg Kovalov, who specializes in eccentric found-footage films, this is a wild compilation feature spanning at least half a century and suggesting at times a Soviet equivalent to The Atomic Cafe and That’s Entertainment! Playfully experimental and irreverent in sound and image, the film gets some of its eeriest effects from excerpts of a mid-50s melodrama of cold-war paranoia called The Case of Corporal Kotschetkov, in which the young hero’s beloved and her grandmother turn out to be capitalist spies. There are plenty of times when one might emerge from this skillful postmodernist frenzy wishing one knew more about the original clips, but there’s no doubt that what Kovalov has brought together is fascinating. (JR) Read more

The Firm

Not to be confused with the John Grisham cream puff, this 1988 TV film by British director Alan Clarke is a powerful, horrifying look at middle-class thugs who start fights at soccer games. Filmed naturalistically, it was written by Al Hunter; the cast includes Gary Oldman, Lesley Manville, and Philip Davis. (JR) Read more

A Day At The Beach

It may sound churlish to say so, but sometimes movies get lost for a reason. This oneadapted by coproducer Roman Polanski from a short story by Dutch writer Heere Heresma in 1969, after the success of Rosemary’s Baby, and directed by Simon [SP???]Hesera, one of Polanski’s best friendswas shot in Copenhagen, chiefly with English actors, and reportedly lost by Paramount Pictures after a single screening the following year. It recounts a depressing, meandering day spent at a drizzly seashore by an alcoholic father (Mark Burns) and his six-year-old daughter (Beatrice Edney), whom he periodically neglects and loses track of. Apart from an uncredited cameo by Peter Sellers as a gay shopkeeper, this is a grim mood piece whose potential effectivenessas Polanski noted in his autobiographyis mainly crushed by the inappropriateness of Burns in the lead part. (The secondary castwhich includes Jack MacGowran, Maurice Roeves, Fiona Lewis, Eva Dahlbeck, and Sissie Reingardis a lot easier to take.) Apart from the nastiness of the lead character, it’s hard to see what Polanski had in mind with the script, and [SP???]Heresa’s workhis first and last feature before he settled into script development and TV commercialsdoesn’t provide many clues. (JR) Read more


A nice little thriller that would be even nicer if it were half an hour shorter. Madeleine Stowe plays a blind violinist in an alternative band who regains her sight through a corneal transplant only to become an eyewitness to a murder. Aidan Quinn is the detective she becomes involved with. Directed by Michael Apted from a witty script by Dana Stevens, this movie has a lot of things going for it: lively cinematography by Dante Spinotti that contrives to suggest the peculiarities of the heroine’s regained sight and makes the most of some Hopper-esque lighting schemes; a good use of Chicago locations (Stowe lives with her seeing-eye dog at Milwaukee and Damen); charismatic and inventive performances by the two leads, with Stowe feisty and energetic and Quinn intermittently recalling Montgomery Clift; and good backup work by others in the cast (James Remar, Peter Friedman, Bruce A. Young, Paul Dillon, Matt Roth, and Laurie Metcalf). There’s also pleasant music by the Drovers, the Chicago band that Stowe’s character plays in. (JR) Read more

Ace Ventura: Pet Detective

The most obnoxious case of masculine swagger since Andrew Dice Clay, with just a tad of Paul Lynde thrown in for spice, Jim Carrey defies you not to bolt for the exit while playing the title hero in this 1994 comic mystery, apparently concocted with the idea of giving the world another The Adventures of Ford Fairlane. I find Clay peaches and cream next to this guy. With Sean Young, Courteney Cox, Tone Loc, Dan Marino, and lots of dick jokes for boys under 11. Written by Carrey, Jack Bernstein, and director Tom Shadyac. 86 min. (JR) Read more

The Accompanist

In Paris during the German occupation an impoverished 20-year-old pianist (Romane Bohringer) goes to work as an accompanist and all-around servant for a famous classical singer (Elena Safonova) who, along with her businessman husband (Richard Bohringer, Romane’s father), is a known collaborationist. The pianist’s love/hatred for her employer goes through further changes when she finds herself delivering a letter to the singer’s lover (Samuel Labarthe) and when the husband decides to break with the Germans and seek political asylum in England. Director Claude Miller’s free adaptation (1992, 111 min.) of a best-selling novel by Nina Berberova (much better known abroad than here), cowritten with Luc Beraud, isn’t very fresh in its story or period ambience, but Romane Bohringer proved to be someone to watch, and we’re given another opportunity to listen to classical music (producer Jean-Louis Livi also produced Tous les matins du monde and Un coeur en hiver). (JR) Read more