To the editors:
When I wrote last week that Pulp Fiction was only “the flip side” of Forrest Gump, an editor took this to mean “the opposite” rather than another version of the same thing, and changed the text accordingly. Sorry for any resulting confusion.
Jonathan Rosenbaum Read more
This epic, compulsively watchable 169-minute documentary about two Chicago inner-city basketball whizzes, William Gates and Arthur Agee, striving to land the grades and the scholarships to make it to the big time (and stay there) is a heady dose of the American Dream and the American nightmare combined–a numbing investigation of how one point on an exam or one basket or fumble in a game can make all the difference in a family’s fortune. It’s a depressing (albeit energizing) saga that often feels like a noncomic application of the worldview of Preston Sturges. Chicago filmmakers Steve James, Frederick Marx, and Peter Gilbert, with coproducers Kartemquin Films and Minnesota’s KCTA TV, spent seven years tracking the lives and careers of their two principals, and there’s little doubt that the presence of the camera and filmmakers becomes part of the unfolding story (a fact that the movie might have acknowledged a little more). Even if you’re as bored by team sports as I am, you won’t be able to tear your eyes away from this memorable cast of characters and the action-packed story, which speaks volumes about the way we live and think and what we do to others and ourselves in the process. Read more
Jean-Luc Godard’s most spiritual film to date (1991) is also his most opaque; if you’re looking for a paraphrasable plot, don’t come near this. But the beauty of his work — framed image and Dolby sound, all shot and recorded in rural Switzerland — is often breathtaking, and I’d much rather hear Godard talking to himself than Spielberg addressing half the planet. The poems and reflections of Giacomo Leopardi (1798-1837) and the Greek myth about Zeus impersonating and cuckolding Amphytrion, especially as treated by Jean Giraudoux — both having to do with cosmic injustice and the relationship between love and war — are two of the principal points of reference. Gerard Depardieu, who turns up in a village wearing a raincoat and carrying the London Observer, is the Amphytrion figure, and Zeus is a croaking voice on the sound track, dimly reminiscent of the voice of the computer in Alphaville. I also spotted references to Kierkegaard, Hitchcock’s I Confess (known as La loi de silence in French), and Straub-Huillet’s From the Cloud to the Resistance and Antigone. But for all its hermetic poetry and esoteric mysticism, the film also has concrete things to say about the bombing of Baghdad and the slaughter in Bosnia. Read more