Monthly Archives: June 1994

The Choirboys

To my mind, this is one of Robert Aldrich’s worst films, but clearly not everyone agrees. Dave Kehr has described it as an accomplished black comedy, albeit a little rough around the edges, whose many moments of virtuoso filmmaking . . . very nearly make up for its faults. I see this raunchy 1977 adaptation of a Joseph Wambaugh novel about police shenanigans as homophobic, heavy-handed, and glib, a sort of Animal House celebrating police corruptionbut maybe I wasn’t paying close enough attention to the editing and camera movements. The lead actors include Charles Durning, Louis Gossett Jr., Randy Quaid, Burt Young, and James Woods. (JR)… Read more »

The Birth Of Love

An investigation of love, family life, and friendship starring Lou Castel, Jean-Pierre Leaud, and Johanna Ter Steege, this autobiographical black-and-white feature (1993) is one of the first by the highly influential Philippe Garrel to be shown in these parts, though he’s made about two dozen films by nowsome experimental, all highly personal. (A spiritual son of Jean-Luc Godard, steeped in the moods and textures of silent cinema, Garrel can also be regarded as the spiritual father of Leos Carax.) Relatively indifferent to lucid storytelling as it’s generally understood, this revolves around the restless moods of a professional actor (Castel) undergoing some sort of midlife crisis and periodically breaking away from his wife, teenage son, and infant daughter to have affairs with younger women. Its beauties and strengths rest almost entirely in the poetry of its images and rhythms and its stabbing emotions rather than its narrative flow. The breathtaking cinematography is by Raoul Coutard, who shot most of Godard’s early features. (JR)… Read more »

Betty

Heralded by some as the triumphant comeback of Claude Chabrol, though I prefer to see it as one of his better second-degree effortsand considering how many of his features have never crossed the Atlantic, it’s hard to rank it more definitively than that. Much of this 1991 film is recounted piecemeal in flashbacks as the title heroine (Marie Trintignant), a young wife recently abandoned by her husband for infidelity, recalls her past to an older woman (Stephane Audran). As is often the case with Chabrol, moral ambiguity is just the other side of mise en scene, and the storytelling is pretty fluid. (JR)… Read more »

The Best Of The New York Underground

Three errors in seven words, and sad proof that a New York underground survives today less as a reality than as an advertising slogan. First, apart from Eugene Salandra’s mildly charming animated Faerie Film (1993), set in Greenwich Village, and the locations of a few postproduction facilities, these six shorts appear to have practically nothing to do with New York. Second, underground used to mean blissfully free and actively hostile toward institutions of all kinds, while these workswith the possible exception of Peter Sarkisian’s striking, aggressive Detritus (sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll in high-contrast black and white with scary effects, shot in New Mexico)are basically student films, indebted to institutions for their production as well as most of their ideas, made largely to please professors. And third, if this is truly the best of what’s availablesomething I can’t believethen God save us all from the worst. The other titles are: Mike King’s Doper, a rather dull documentary about a casual dope dealer and his friends; Joshua Wintringham’s Pleasant Hill, USA, a documentary about a senseless killing in Ohio; Frank Sebastiano’s Spring Break, a light comedy about an ineffectual slob planning to kill a romantic rival; and Helen Stickler’s Queen Mercy, a meditation on exchanges in a porn parlor.… Read more »