Daily Archives: April 8, 1994

Twenty Bucks

Perhaps the most intriguing fact about this clever, touching, and well-directed independent feature is that the script was written by the late Endre Bohem in 1935 and revised by his son Leslie only a few years ago–a form of generational continuity reflected in one of the delayed revelations of the plot as well. The story–set in the present, though one can imagine it set during the Depression–concerns the fate of a single $20 bill that’s dropped on a city street, picked up, spent, given away, lost, and pursued by many people for multiple reasons, always gaining new significance with each new setting. Most of the resulting miniplots are self-contained, but the script also gracefully brings back characters, making a roundelay exercise like the recent Chain of Desire look fairly crude by comparison. Documentary filmmaker Keva Rosenfeld has switched to fiction with a great deal of craft and assurance, never allowing the large number of characters to seem top-heavy or confusing. The able cast includes Linda Hunt, Elisabeth Shue, Christopher Lloyd, Steve Buscemi, Brendan Fraser, Gladys Knight, Melora Walters, and Kamal Holloway. Music Box, Friday through Thursday, April 8 through 14.… Read more »

Max Mon Amour

With the possible exception of Kurosawa, Nagisa Oshima (In the Realm of the Senses, Empire of Passion, Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence) is the greatest living Japanese filmmaker. Unfortunately, the U.S. distributor of most of his early work has made very little of it available on video, which means that most Americans’ knowledge of the modernist Japanese cinema doesn’t include Death by Hanging, Boy, The Man Who Left His Will on Film, The Ceremony, and many other Oshima masterworks. Max Mon Amour (1986), his most recent feature, here receiving its belated Chicago premiere, isn’t as good as those movies, but then what is? This dry drawing-room comedy about an English diplomat’s wife (Charlotte Rampling) who has a “serious” affair with a chimpanzee was produced by Serge Silberman, producer of Bunuel’s last films, and written by Bunuel’s cowriter on the same films, Jean-Claude Carriere. Much of this film’s ongoing humor derives from the human couple’s sense of decorum; in a game effort to preserve his marriage, the diplomat (Anthony Higgins), who has a mistress of his own, arranges to have the chimp moved into their flat. Even for a filmmaker who essentially changes style with each picture–and has a reputation as a taboo breaker–this is uncharacteristic: the poker-faced surrealism of “civilized” people attempting to be mature about a woman’s passion for a chimp seems, not surprisingly, more like Bunuel than Oshima.… Read more »