A broad satirical farce (1992) by Juzo Itami (The Funeral, Tampopo, A Taxing Woman) about the efforts of a luxury hotel in Tokyo to rid itself of yakuza who are using the place as a hangout. These efforts prove ineffectual, thanks to the gangsters’ not-so-gentle art of intimidation, until the hotel hires a lawyer (Nobuku Miyamoto, Itami’s wife and frequent leading lady) who’s well versed in the problems involved and who plans various counterattacks. Eventually this picture turns solemn and serious in order to hammer home points that are made more effectively through comedy, and there’s a corny Western-elevator-music score (broken only occasionally by sinister patches of percussion) that may set your teeth on edge. But one sign of the relevance of this movie is that Itami was brutally attacked by three gangsters less than a week after it opened in Japan, leaving him with permanent scars he now wears as badges of honor. Music Box, Friday through Thursday, February 3 through 9.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Still. Read more
This difficult-to-categorize masterpiece by Tony Gatlif (1993) is many things at once: a Gypsy “docu-musical” (actually an adroit mixture of documentary and fiction) in ‘Scope and stereo featuring musicians, singers, and dancers from India, Egypt, Turkey, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, France, and Spain; an epic account of Gypsy migrations over the past thousand years; a political statement about Gypsy persecution that never descends into bitterness; a poetic evocation of the passing seasons; and a gorgeously filmed and edited compilation of some of the most joyous, soulful, and energizing music and dancing you’re likely to encounter, taking on the musical forms and styles of each successive country (including Django Reinhardt-style jazz in France and flamenco in Spain). All this is threaded together so subtly and expressively by Gatlif (himself a Gypsy), with a minimum of speech and narration, that the music and filmmaking often seem indissoluble. When dogs bark or the camera cranes up exuberantly into the treetops, it’s every bit as musical and rhythmic as the performances, and the pulse is so infectious that you may feel like dancing. Music Box, Friday through Thursday, February 3 through 9. Read more