Monthly Archives: February 1994

Jamon Jamon

A juicy and deliciously over-the-top piece of Spanish raunchiness with melodramatic as well as erotic overtones, this won the Silver Lion at the 1992 Venice film festival. Bigas Luna’s comedywhose title might be roughly translated (with pun added) as Double Hammyis funnier to my taste than anything by Pedro Almodovar in his postpunk phase. (The fleshy and uninhibited satirical mode recalls Al Capp’s comic strip Li’l Abner in more ways than one.) Determined to prevent her son from marrying a prostitute’s daughter who works in a men’s underwear factory, the wife of the factory’s owner hires a stud to seduce her, then falls for the same hunk herself; in the ensuing fracas involving food, class, animals, passion, and porking, overripeness is all, right down to the climactic ham-bone duel. 94 min. (JR)… Read more »

Greedy

Jonathan Lynn, director of Nuns on the Run and My Cousin Vinnie, and Babaloo Mandel and Lowell Ganz, house writers of Ron Howard’s production company, collaborate on a Michael J. Fox comedy with lots of twists, about the mad scramble of various members of a family named McTeague (clearly named after the lead character in Erich von Stroheim’s Greed) and an English ingenue to win the favor of an aging, cantankerous scrap metal tycoon (Kirk Douglas) and thus inherit his estate when he dies. Part of what keeps one guessing is an ideological obstacle that’s kept in the wings but influences the action at every turn: the difficulty, after years of Reaganism, of representing unbridled greed in a Hollywood picture as something less than wholly admirable. While the results yield a few awkward moments, the movie generally exploits this difficulty to its own cynical advantage, and the castwhich also includes Nancy Travis, Olivia d’Abo, Phil Hartman, Bob Balaban, Ed Begley Jr., and Colleen Campgenerally whoops it up. (JR)… Read more »

Filming {Othello}

The last completed essay film of Orson Welles, and the last of his features to be released during his lifetime (1979), this wonderfully candid, rarely screened account of the making of his first wholly independent feature offers a perfect introduction to that movie and to Welles’s second manner of moviemaking that was necessary once he parted company with the studios and mainstream media. Significantly, the only part of Othello we see and hear in its original form is from the opening sequence; everything elseusually shown silently with Welles’s narrationinvolves an intricate reediting of the original material. Whether he’s addressing us beside his moviola, delivering new versions of Shakespearean speeches, chatting with his old Irish friends and collaborators Micheal MacLiammoir (his Iago) and Hilton Edwards, or speaking to college students, Welles is at his spellbinding best. (JR)… Read more »

8 Seconds

Very sincere, very corny, very old-fashioned, and intermittently likable, this biopic about rodeo champion Lane Frost (Luke Perry) starts in 1963 but takes place mainly between 1983 and 1989, though Monte Merrick’s script and the direction of John G. Avildsen (Rocky) suggest another era entirely. With Red Mitchell, James Rebhorn, Carrie Snodgress, and Ronnie Claire Edwards. (JR)… Read more »

The Day Of The Locust

A painfully misconceived reduction and simplification by writer Waldo Salt and director John Schlesinger of the great Nathanael West novel about Hollywood in the late 30s (1975). It misses crucial aspects of the book’s surrealism and satire, though it has a fair number of compensations if you don’t care about what’s being ground underfootamong them, Conrad Hall’s cinematography and, if memory serves, one of Donald Sutherland’s better performances. With William Atherton, Karen Black, Burgess Meredith, Geraldine Page, Bo Hopkins, and one of the rare appearances of the lead actress from Cassavetes’s Shadows, Lelia Goldoni. (JR)… Read more »

Claudine

One of the best pictures by former blacklisted director John Berry, this bright, underrated 1974 romantic comedy and social satire picks up a theme from his first important picture, From This Day Forward (1946)the thwarting of a young couple’s lives by government bureaucracyand really runs with it. (If you believe the neoconservative claim that radical leftists never criticize the abuses of big government, this is bound to be an eye-opener.) Here the romance is between a garbage man (James Earl Jones) and a young ghetto mother on welfare (Diahann Carroll), and Berry’s handling of the topic manages to be pointed without being condescending. On its own terms, the film is a revelation and a delight. 92 min. (JR)… Read more »

The Chase

By my count the fourth Hollywood film of that title, this one stars Charlie Sheen as a falsely accused bank robber in flight from prison toward the Mexican border; Kristy Swanson plays the heiress whose car he takes. Written and directed by Adam Rifkin; with Henry Rollins, Josh Mostel, and Ray Wise. (JR)… Read more »

Carmen

This 1916 comedy, the first long film directed by and starring Charlie Chaplin, is a slapstick parody of a now-forgotten Cecil B. De Mille feature of the same title that came out the previous year. As might be expected, it’s rudely irreverent and very funny. 67 min. (JR)… Read more »

Blue Chips

The problem with this film’s earnest script about corruption in college basketball is that the usually witty Ron Shelton (Bull Durham, White Men Can’t Jump) wrote it long before he developed his familiar jivey style. Not even an unsentimental basketball fan like director William Friedkin can wash away all the corn syrup. The plot concerns a dedicated coach (Nick Nolte) whose declining power to attract blue chips to his team drives him to allow a wealthy alumnus (J.T. Walsh) to resort to bribery. Just about the only novelty in what transpires is Friedkin’s use of real basketball players in the cast; the abortive love story between the coach and a grammar-school teacher (Mary McDonnell)potentially one of Shelton’s sassy neo-Hawksian heroinesis strictly half-baked. With Ed O’Neill, Alfre Woodard, and basketball player Shaquille O’Neal (who projects a lot of charm). (JR)… Read more »

Blue

Part one (1993, 100 min.) of a loosely connected trilogy by Krzysztof Kieslowski related to the colors of and abstract qualities associated with the French flagin this case libertythis is a tale of a woman (Juliette Binoche) reassembling and reinventing her life in Paris after her composer husband and daughter die in an auto accident. Working with his regular writing collaborator Krzysztof Piesiewicz, Kieslowski had become a master at conveying raw emotional states with a pristine economy of means; as the dialogue here is all in subtitled French, which he barely knew, these means have little to do with language. He was less adept in working out a dreamy allegory about European unification. (An unfinished concerto left by the heroine’s husband that she and a colleague eventually decide to complete is meant to be played in all the EU capitals at once.) But the film’s grasp of the fluctuations of moment-to-moment experience, including consciousness itself, is extraordinary, and Binoche’s powerful performance never falters. (JR)… Read more »

Angie

It’s a sign of how wonderful Geena Davis is hereand how adept director Martha Coolidge continues to be in tackling women’s subjectsthat this movie manages to score much of the time in spite of a feeble script by Todd Graff (Used People), based on Avra Wing’s novel Angie, I Says. Davis plays a hard-nosed single woman from Brooklyn’s Bensonhurst who becomes pregnant and decides to have the baby; plagued by never having known her own mother, she makes a journey into her family’s past. Among the secondary cast, Aida Turturro (cousin of John) and Jenny O’Hara, as the heroine’s best friend and stepmother, are especially good; James Gandolfini and Stephen Rea, who play respectively her longtime boyfriend and her lover, are relatively predictable; with Philip Bosco. (JR)… Read more »