Daily Archives: May 12, 1995

The Last Good Time

A sturdily made and beautifully acted comedy-drama about aging from Bob Balaban, whose Parents showed him to be an imaginative director who knows what to do with a set and how to enter the worlds of lonely people. The story here, adapted by Balaban and John McLaughlin from a Richard Bausch novel, concerns a retired violinist (Armin Mueller-Stahl) living in Brooklyn who puts up a homeless former neighbor in her early 20s (Olivia d’Abo) and develops an unexpected relationship with her. His only friend–another former neighbor, now dying in a rest home–is played by the late Lionel Stander, one of the juiciest Hollywood character actors who ever lived. His fabulous swan song is reason enough to see this picture, though Balaban’s taste and intelligence and the warmth of the other cast members (including Maureen Stapleton, Adrian Pasdar, and Kevin Corrigan) provide further incentive. This is one of those rare American movies that know what they’re doing and where they’re going every step of the way. Esquire.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Still. Read more

Alien Nation

French Kiss

Rating * Has redeeming facet

Directed by Lawrence Kasdan

Written by Adam Brooks

With Meg Ryan, Kevin Kline, Timothy Hutton, Jean Reno, Francois Cluzet, Susan Anbeh, and Renee Humphrey.

The great Hollywood director Ernst Lubitsch once remarked during the heyday of the studios, “There is Paramount Paris and Metro Paris, and of course the real Paris. Paramount’s is the most Parisian of all.” French Kiss offers a movie Paris of its own, but it isn’t one that belongs to any studio or director–or one that any Parisian would recognize. It belongs to this country, and it represents about two decades of bad faith–a copy of a copy of a stereotype, bred out of so much defensiveness and attitude that today anything approximating the real Paris has to be discarded for fear of disorienting the viewer.

After all, French Kiss is a standard-issue romantic comedy starring Meg Ryan and Kevin Kline, the success of which depends on an audience feeling immediately comfortable wherever it happens to be taken. I can’t vouch for the writer, a Canadian named Adam Brooks, but I suspect that the director, acclaimed hack Lawrence Kasdan, is at least partially aware of the deception involved in making an audience comfortable. Read more

A Great Day in Harlem

There are only a few great jazz documentaries, and each has a style all its own. This one-hour 1994 dissection of a 1958 group photograph of 57 key jazz musicians, one of the opening attractions of the four-day Silver Images Film Festival, is special both as oral history and as a survey of the art. If you wanted to introduce someone to what jazz is all about, this would be an ideal place to start, a labor of love by jazz enthusiast and former Chicago journalist Jean Bach, who did an awesome job of tracking down the surviving participants in and witnesses to the picture taking, even locating some silent home-movie footage by bassist Milt Hinton and his wife. Included are elegant thumbnail profiles of such musicians as Lester Young, Jo Jones, Count Basie, Charles Mingus, Pee Wee Russell, Red Allen, Roy Eldridge, Horace Silver, Jimmy Rushing, Coleman Hawkins, Dicky Wells, and Stuff Smith, most of them offered by fellow musicians, along with samples of their music and comments on their placement in the photograph. On the same program, Kevin Segalla’s Notes (1994), Natalie Cash’s Blues in C (1994), and one of the other great jazz documentaries, Gjon Mili’s arty but exciting Jammin’ the Blues (1950), which includes prime performances by Lester Young and Jo Jones. Read more