Daily Archives: March 1, 1995

The Eagle Shooting Heroes

Judging from what I sampled, this is a silly but enjoyable Hong Kong camp romp (1994), directed by Jeff Lau and with the same basic cast (Leslie Cheung, Brigitte Lin Ching-hsia, Jacky Cheung, Maggie Cheung) and story as Wong Kar-wai’s much more serious Ashes of Time, which was made around the same time. It’s full of swordplay, pratfalls, and other kinds of acrobatics, and the fantasy details include jet-propelled silver boots, a crystal ball, and a magic drum. The decor is gaudy, and the speed is delirious. (JR)… Read more »

Sex, Drugs And Democracy

This documentary by Jonathan Blank about contemporary Dutch tolerance regarding prostitution and soft drugs is a video that’s been transferred to film, so the image quality is terrible (the sound-bite and image-bite format is also fairly monotonous). But you may find the content engaging if you aren’t already familar with the commonsensical, humane laws in contemporary Holland and how successful they seem to be. As a commentary on a functioning welfare state with little poverty or extreme wealth, this may ultimately be more a film about this countryor at least a film addressed to the U.S.; there’s a pointed segment, for instance, about the relative scarcity of guns. (JR)… Read more »

Urban Cowboy

This 1980 romantic comedy, set in Pasadena, Texas, and loosely inspired by an Aaron Latham article in Esquire, was supposed to have been a John Travolta vehicle, but its lasting importance is arguably more its function as a showcase for the unbridled sensuality of Debra Winger, his costar. Undoubtedly dated in terms of sexual politics, it remains one of her most memorable efforts. Directed by James Bridges, who scripted the movie with Latham; with Scott Glenn and Madolyn Smith. 135 min. (JR)… Read more »

Passe-compose

Appropriately and suggestively, the title of Francoise Romand’s first feature (1994), based on Frederic Dard’s thriller The Executioner Weeps, translates as Past Imperfect. Like her inventive documentaries Mix-up and Call Me Madame, it deals with the construction of personal identity. On the Mediterranean coast of Tunisia a gloomy Jewish war photographer fleeing his past saves the life of a mysterious woman suffering from amnesia and carrying $300,000 (Helas pour moi’s heroine, Laurence Masliah). In helping her discover who she is and how she came by the money, he enters a metaphysical labyrinth that produces more questions than answers. This movie doesn’t offer many of the satisfactions of a conventional thriller, and the action flags a bit toward the end, but it’s a provocative, troubling, and haunting spellbinder just the same, beautifully shot and originally conceived. The sound track is especially striking. (JR)… Read more »

The Quick And The Dead

Sam Raimi tries to do a Sergio Leone, and though this 1995 feature is highly enjoyable in spots, it doesn’t come across as very convincing, perhaps because nothing can turn Sharon Stone into Charles Bronson. Gene Hackman runs a western town like a decadent Roman emperor, obliging various inhabitants to perform shoot-outs with one another, and Stone turns up thirsting for revenge. Raimi has a lot of fun with certain Leone conventions (huge close-ups, hokey flashbacks, hyperbolic lines and gestures), and adds a few of his own (like some morphing effects out of Death Becomes Her), but he flubs some moments (most noticeably by cutting away from several gunfights at climactic junctures) and generally seems hamstrung by Stone’s determination to play simultaneously the most and least macho character in the story. Written by Simon Moore; with Russell Crowe, Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobin Bell, Roberts Blossom, Kevin Conway, Keith David, Lance Henriksen, Pat Hingle, and Woody Strode (whose talents are wasted). 105 min. (JR)… Read more »

Fast Trip, Long Drop

Gregg Bordowitz’s deconstructive autobiographical essay (1993) about his discovery in 1988 that he was HIV positive and about his subsequent life, including his decision to quit drugs and drinking and to come out to his mother and stepfather. Making semi-ironic use of Jewish music and diverse kinds of silent and sound footage, Bordowitz speaks about his late father and his sex life; he also includes his own documentary footage of AIDS rallies, conversations with friends (including filmmaker Yvonne Rainer), a tour of his bookshelves, and a sarcastic parody of the way the media have treated AIDS. Nothing in this work is taken for granted, and Bordowitz’s bracing anger and inventive playfulness are both life enhancing. 54 min. (JR)… Read more »

Hardly Working

After a decade’s absence, Jerry Lewis made his comeback in 1981 with this movie, which represents a throwback in some respects to the conditions of his first film as a director, The Bellboy: a low budget, discontinuous gags, and Florida locations (in this case suburban). But two decades separate that film from this one, and what Lewis comes up with here is both looser and more tragicnot merely in depicting the vain efforts of an out-of-work circus clown to hold down a steady blue-collar job, but in showing the effects of aging and lessened stamina in its star (reflected also in the tired, memorable features of Lewis’s straight man, Harold J. Stone, who plays his boss at the post office and the father of his girlfriend). The candor of this movie as self-portrait is at times almost terrifying; while some of the gags are genuinely funny, the depiction of an older Lewis trying to adjust to everyday American life also becomes a searing depiction of the fate of misfits in the Reagan era. Lewis has described this as his worst movie, but it also may be his most revealing one. With Susan Oliver and Steve Franken. (JR)… Read more »

Once Upon A Time In China Ii

Insofar as Tsui Hark’s lively and epic (if familiar) original was already something of a twice-told tale, his 1992 sequel, which literally starts off with a reprise of the acrobatic sequence that ended its predecessor, should perhaps be called Thrice Upon a Time in China. It continues the saga of surgeon and martial-arts master Wong Fei-hong in China around the turn of the century; with Jet Li and Rosamund Kwan. 112 min. (JR)… Read more »

Fists Of The North Star

Billed as the first Japanese cartoon attacked for violence, this feature-length SF animation about two kung fu schools doing battle in World War Four for control of the planet will be shown with another banned Japanese SF cartoon, M.D. Geist (Most Dangerous Ghost). Sponsored by the Psychotronic Film Society.… Read more »

Fire In The Sky

Directed by Robert Lieberman from a script by Tracy Torme, this picture is based on the account by one Travis Walton, played here by D.B. Sweeney, of his own alleged abduction by extraterrestrials in a UFO in 1975. Not a bad job of storytelling, as it turns out, though most of the story to be told hinges more on the relationship between Walton and his best friend (Terminator 2’s Robert Patrick) than on the SF elements. With Craig Sheffer, Peter Berg, and James Garner. (JR)… Read more »

Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!

No characters here, and a miserable excuse for a plot. But plenty of big boobs, leather boots, crisp editing, bad acting, and a couple of drooling hillbillies anticipating the Texas Chainsaw Massacre family conspire to make Russ Meyer’s violent black-and-white 1965 quickie something faintly mythic for future generations more interested in images than in people or ideas. (To be fair, the precredits sequence is pretty daring and original, but after that it’s all downhill.) If mean-spirited dominatrices are your thing, make tracks to this; with Tura Satana, Lori Williams, Haji, Stuart Lancaster, Paul Trinka, and Sue Bernard. 83 min. (JR)… Read more »