Monthly Archives: June 1995

The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love

This sweet, tender, exciting 1994 feature by writer-director Maria Maggenti is about the puppy love that blossoms between two high school seniors: a rebellious tomboy pothead gas-station attendant who lives with her aunt in an all-lesbian household and a popular wealthy black intellectual. Maggenti doesn’t always have her technique together–there are some awkward voice-overs, and a couple of secondary performances are overblown–but her feeling for the lead characters and for adolescence in general is so energizing that these become minor lapses. This movie triumphs even when it makes a sudden transition toward the end from romantic comedy to farce. With Laurel Holloman and Nicole Parker. Pipers Alley Read more

Judge Dredd

Another fascist action bash from Sylvester Stallone, this one based on an English comic book series and borrowing heaps from the set design of Blade Runner and, in at least one scene, the makeup of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. In a future lawless America where James Earl Jones or somebody who sounds just like him still reads aloud roller titles, an appropriately semihuman Stallone administers his form of justice. It’s a camp performance decked out with a permanent sneer, twisted grimaces, and constipated line deliveries. Stallone wears a cartoon football outfit, worries about the fate of his brudder, and occasionally does battle with a growling robot thug. They paid Max von Sydow to appear in this as a father figure; also on hand are Armand Assante, Diane Lane, Jurgen Prochnow, Joanna Miles, Joan Chen, and, for teenage belly laughs, Rob Schneider. Directed without inspiration by Danny Cannon from a stupid script by Michael De Luca, William Wisher, and Steven de Souza (best remembered for his witty contributions to The Flintstones). (JR) Read more

Party Girl

Parker Posey (Dazed and Confused, Sleep With Me) stars as a 23-year-old diva of lower Manhattan clubs who tries to clean up her life and act, in a low-key comedy directed and cowritten by Daisy von Scherler Mayer, who features her own mother as her heroine’s godmother. This exudes trendiness at regular intervals, and otherwise manages to be reasonably charming about Manhattan’s melting pot culture, but my general response was still Wake me when it’s over. Cowritten by Harry Birckmayer; with Omar Townsend, Sasha von Scherler, and Guillermo Diaz. (JR) Read more

Island of the Dead

This 1993 follow-up to Russian film critic Oleg Kovalov’s feature-length compilation of eccentric found footage, Garden of Scorpions (1991), is as dreamy and experimental as its predecessor. It’s an intriguing reverie on prerevolutionary Russia, loosely organized around a tribute to the memory of silent superstar Vera Kholodnaya, who died in 1919 at the age of 35. Definitely worth checking out. A Chicago premiere. (Facets Multimedia Center, 1517 W. Fullerton, Friday, June 23, 7:00; Saturday and Sunday, June 24 and 25, 3:00. 6:00, and 9:00; and Monday through Thursday, June 26 through 29, 7:00; 281-4114) Read more

The Bridges of Madison County

Clint Eastwood movingly resurrects the star system, the Hollywood love story, classical Hollywood direction, middle-aged romance, the late jazz singer Johnny Hartman, and the mid-60s, but despite a great deal of craft and sincerity he and screenwriter Richard LaGravenese don’t quite turn all the cardboard in Robert James Waller’s popular novel into flesh and bone. The one big exception is Meryl Streep’s beautiful and fresh performance as an Italian-American Iowa housewife and mother resigned to a life that hasn’t lived up to her fantasies. Eastwood himself plays a dreamboat photographer for National Geographic who drops into her life for four days–a fantasy figure who only occasionally adds up to anything more than his sketchy profile. As long as these two are on the screen, one can forget the treacle that placed them there; their first moment of physical contact is exquisite and unforgettable, and the film as a whole makes a plausible conservative argument for adultery as a preserver of marriage. A flashback structure involving the housewife’s two kids and suggesting Wuthering Heights only fitfully transcends the Reader’s Digest aura this movie is so eager to honor and justify. But it’s tempting to overlook the shortcomings of a self-styled relic that’s so earnest about what it’s doing, and has the unfashionable courage to be slow, especially with so much wonderful jazz on the sound track. Read more

Batman Forever

The movie, not the McDonald’s franchisethough is it possible or even desirable to tell the two apart? This mannered and mechanical spin-off, suitable for boys of five and under, gives us two male couples instead of a single hero and villainBatman and Robin (Val Kilmer and Chris O’Donnell) on the one hand, the Riddler and Two-Face (Jim Carrey and Tommy Lee Jones) on the otherwith Nicole Kidman as a shrink periodically turning up to validate the rampant repressed homoeroticism. At least Tim Burton’s Batman had the advantage of an original Jack Nicholson performance; this time we get only familiar Carrey shtick and Jones’s reprise of Ty Cobb to take care of the villainy. Director Joel Schumacher submits to the Wagnerian bombast with an overly busy surface, and the script by Lee and Janet Scott Batchler and Akiva Goldsman basically runs through the formula as if it’s a checklist; with Michael Gough and Pat Hingle. (JR) Read more

Sixty Minutes

A fascinating and at times exciting one-hour video by Robert Frank, made in 1990 for French television and consisting of only one shot. It begins with the camera inside a van moving through lower Manhattan–mainly Tribeca and environs–with actor Kevin J. O’Connor and others. The camera emerges at various points to take in the street life, often passing in a matter of seconds from public to private in what it observes and capturing the experience of New York pedestrians like few other films or videos; eventually it proceeds down into the subway. Among those who turn up in this mild adventure are Peter Orlovsky and Taylor Mead. On the same program, a half-hour Frank short, Home Improvements (1985), and a 1986 semidocumentary about Frank by Philip and Amy Brookman, Fire in the East: A Portrait of Robert Frank. Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Tuesday, June 13, 6:00, 443-3737. Read more

Bab El-Oued City

The best Algerian film I’ve seen, Merzak Allouache’s feature contains one of the clearest and most persuasive depictions of the recent rise of Islamic fundamentalism. Shot in 1993 and completed in 1994, it offers an exciting, comprehensive cross section of contemporary urban Algerian life, with particular emphasis on the youth culture. The plot focuses on what happens after a young baker trashes a loudspeaker that’s blaring propaganda from the roof of his apartment house. With Nadia Kaci, Mohamed Ourdache, Hassan Abou, and Nadia Samir. Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Friday and Saturday, June 9 and 10, 8:00, 443-3737. Read more

The Glass Shield

Though I haven’t yet seen the Miramaxed version of this feature by the country’s most gifted black filmmaker, Charles Burnett (Killer of Sheep, To Sleep With Anger), it’s reportedly more upbeat and somewhat less angry than the original and contains some additional rap music on the sound track. But this heartfelt and persuasive look at the racism and corruption of the Los Angeles police force, based on a true story, is surely well worth seeing regardless of what Burnett was forced to do to it to get it released. I saw the original version a year ago in Cannes and then again in Toronto, and its power and feeling have stayed with me. The story is about the adjustments and accommodations made by a sincere black rookie cop (Michael Boatman) who joins an all-white precinct and wants to be accepted by his fellow officers; his only real ally turns out to be the one woman in the precinct (Lori Petty), a Jew who gets plenty of flak herself. When a murder case arises involving a black suspect (Ice Cube), the hero’s decision to work for justice within the system gets severely tested. (It must be a bitter irony for Burnett–who’s never been much of a self-promoter–that his own effort to work within the system has led to problems comparable to his hero’s.) Read more

The Postman

The idea of this 1994 film sounds cutesy and middlebrow: the famous Chilean poet Pablo Neruda (a dubbed Philippe Noiret), taking sanctuary on an island off the coast of Naples after being forced into political exile in 1952, serves as mentor to the young local postman (the late Massimo Troisi), giving him pointers in wooing the local woman he’s determined to marry. Fortunately director and cowriter Michael Radford, who made the memorable 1984 version of Orwell’s 1984 (as well as the less memorable White Mischief), somehow brings the premise off with both charm and restraint. Sometimes the restraint may be less than felicitousNeruda was a darker poet than he appears to be in these sunny climesbut Noiret seems perfectly cast, and the film’s warmth and sympathy are underlined by some intelligence. Based on Antonio Skarmeta’s novel Burning Patience and also known as Il Postino; Troisi had a hand in the adaptation as well. In Italian and Spanish with subtitles. 108 min. (JR) Read more

Love And Human Remains

Even when Quebecois filmmaker Denys Arcand is handling someone else’s material, as he is hereBrad Fraser’s adaption of his play Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Lovehe has an annoying habit of glibly overgeneralizing about the Way We Live Now, invariably erring on the side of pretension. This is his first film in English (1993)shot in Montreal but clearly set in an English-speaking Canadian city that isn’t Torontoand, like his earlier Jesus of Montreal, it has a fair number of likable details and interesting characters. The film basically concerns sexual uncertainties among gay characters who experiment with straight sex and among straight characters who experiment with gay sex, and the focus is on the relationship between a gay actor turned waiter and a straight book reviewer who used to be lovers and now share an apartment. Many interesting notations about them and the characters they become entangled with are ultimately skewed by some guff about a serial killer that’s somehow supposed to sum up everybody’s problemswhich strikes me as desperate dramaturgical rhetoric. With Thomas Gibson, Ruth Marshall, Cameron Bancroft, Mia Kirshner, Rick Roberts, Joanne Vannicola, and Matthew Ferguson. (JR) Read more

Ivan And Abraham

A striking, ambitious, and densely realized French feature (1993) in black and white by Yolande Zauberman, also known as Me Ivan, You Abraham, that re-creates life in a Jewish shtetl in eastern Poland during the 30s. A 9-year-old Jewish boy and a 13-year-old Christian boy decide to run away together, and the younger boy’s older sister and her communist boyfriend go looking for them. The dialogue is in Yiddish, Polish, and a Gypsy dialect, and the secondary cast includes some well-known Russian actors and Polish actor Daniel Olbryschki. (JR) Read more

Island Of The Dead

This 1993 follow-up to Russian film critic Oleg Kovalov’s feature-length compilation of eccentric found footage, Garden of Scorpions (1991), is as dreamy and experimental as its predecessor. It’s an intriguing reverie on prerevolutionary Russia, loosely organized around a tribute to the memory of silent superstar Vera Kholodnaya, who died in 1919 at the age of 35. Definitely worth checking out. (JR) Read more

Lady Be Good

Tuneful MGM musical of 1941 from the Arthur Freed unit, with Robert Young and Ann Sothern as married songwriters putting on a show; Eleanor Powell, Dan Dailey, Red Skelton, and the Jimmy Dorsey orchestra are among the featured entertainers. One of the songs, The Last Time I Saw Paris, won that year’s Oscar; Norman Z. McLeod directed. (JR) Read more


Though Wayne Wang is the credited director, the real auteur of this interlocking set of Brooklyn miniplots is novelist Paul Auster, evidently trying to work off some white liberal guilt in his ambitious original script about fate and crisscrossing destinies. William Hurt plays a novelist mourning the death of his pregnant wife who temporarily adopts a fatherless black teenager (Harold Perrineau) who’s tracking down his real father (Forest Whitaker); Harvey Keitel is the philosophical owner of the local cigar store who takes a daily photograph on the street outside his establishment; and Stockard Channing is Keitel’s former girlfriend who reappears with a drug-addicted daughter in tow. Despite a certain grace in the dialogue and casual plot construction, this is positively reeking of a desire to be cheerful in the face of adversity; just about everything this movie has to say about black life and adversity seems strictly secondhand. 112 min. (JR) Read more