Monthly Archives: January 1996

Nobody Loves Me

A 1994 German comedy by Doris Dorrie about the woes of being single. The heroine works in security at the Cologne airport, lives alone in a housing project, and is trying to improve her life. Her friendship with a psychic who’s gay leads her to get her hopes up about a new building manager. This is fine as far as it goes, but it doesn’t go very farwhich is another way of saying that it’s diverting but doesn’t stick to the ribs. With Maria Schrader and Pierre Sanoussi-Bliss. (JR) Read more

The Devil, Probably

Robert Bresson’s penultimate feature (1977)his only original script apart from his early short Affaires publiques and his masterpiece Au hasard Balthazaris a ringing indictment of the modern world, centered on the suicide of a disaffected 20-year-old Parisian. There’s something mannered and at times even freakish about Bresson’s handling of well-clothed adolescents and his multifaceted editorializingwhich improbably recalls Samuel Fuller in its anger and dynamic energybut the power and conviction of this bitter, reflective parable are remarkable. Not a masterwork perhaps, but certainly the work of a master, and, judging from the work of many of his young French disciples (including Leos Carax), one of his most influential features. (JR) Read more

The Silences Of The Palace

A striking semiautobiographical first feature (1994) by Tunisian writer-director Moufida Tlatli about being a woman in the Islamic world. Told in flashbacks from the vantage point of the mid-60s, it recounts the story of a young woman who may be the illegitimate daughter of a nobleman as she grows up on his lavish estate. Slow and nuanced, this is well worth your time. (JR) Read more

Mr. Holland’s Opus

Richard Dreyfuss stars as an inspirational music teacher in a Disney movie scripted by Patrick Sheane Duncan and designed for the Oscar nomination it did in fact receive (Dreyfuss for best actor). That doesn’t mean you have to see it. With Glenne Headly, Jay Thomas, and Olympia Dukakis. 142 min. (JR) Read more


This was the most popular American movie at Cannes in 1995; the vagaries of deal making caused delays in its domestic opening. Very much an actor’s vehiclewritten for Jennifer Jason Leigh by her mother, Barbara Turner, and directed with panache and sensitivity by Ulu Grosbard, who’s best known as a stage directorit focuses on the untalented, highly dysfunctional sister of a successful folk-rock singer (Mare Winningham) based in Seattle as she follows her sister on the road and pitifully tries to carve out a life and career of her own. Leigh does remarkable things with her part, moving well beyond the sort of academicism that has limited her other recent work; she builds the character from moment to moment as well from scene to scene, climaxing in a protracted onstage number, filmed with a mainly unsuspecting live audience. Quirky and nuanced, this movie has a lot to say about sibling rivalry and the current music scene. With Ted Levine, Max Perlich, John Doe, John C. Reilly, and a welcome bit by blues singer Jimmy Witherspoon. (JR) Read more

Eye For An Eye

Sally Field plays Charles Bronson in Death Wish. She and director John Schlesinger are determined to do anything for a buck in this really awful, hysterical thriller about a housewife determined to take revenge on the creep who raped and killed her teenage daughter who’s been set free on a technicality. With Ed Harris (as Fields’s sweetie-pie husband), Joe Mantegna (as a sweetie-pie cop), Kiefer Sutherland, Beverly D’Angelo, and Keith David; adapted from an Erika Holzer novel by Amanda Silver and Rick Jaffa. If you thought Schlesinger’s Pacific Heights was egregious, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet; do yourself a favor and see Dead Man Walking instead. (JR) Read more

I Can’t Sleep

This characteristic walk on the wild side from writer-director Claire Denis attracted my interest mainly for its cunning portrait of a particular Paris quartier, the 18th arrondissement, through its diverse assortment of neighbors; others may be drawn to the movie because it’s about serial killers. Based on a true story about a gay coupleone a West Indian with a wife, the other a female impersonatorwho murdered more than 20 elderly women in Paris in late 1987, this 1994 film has a Hitchcockian sense of crisscrossing lives and festering compulsions that recalls Rear Window and Frenzy, though it isn’t a thriller in any ordinary sense. The killers are probably more interesting than anyone else here (other characters include a female karate teacher and a recent immigrant from Lithuania). But the subject is too tired to generate all the interest the film assumes we’ll have, and the depiction of the murders is unvarnished. With Richard Courcet, Vincent Dupont, and Beatrice Dalle. 110 min. (JR) Read more

A Walk In The Clouds

Directed by Alfonso Arau (Like Water for Chocolate), this is a 1995 remake of an Italian feature with the setting changed to northern California by screenwriters Robert Mark Kamen, Mark Miller, and Harvey Weitzman. Returning home from World War II, a young American soldier (Keanu Reeves) has a chance encounter with the daughter (Aitana Sanchez-Gijon) of a Mexican-American vineyard owner and winds up posing as her husband to help her deal with her father (Giancarlo Giannini). With Anthony Quinn and Angelica Aragon. Read more

Murmur Of The Heart

This semiautobiographical 1971 film by Louis Malle is one of his finest. Set in Dijon in the mid-50s, it concerns the sexual initiation of a precocious, intellectual, wealthy French adolescent (Benoit Ferreux), a process that’s assisted at one crucial point by his sensuous Italian mother (Lea Massari). Malle’s sense of the period and milieu is precise and confident throughout, as is his effective use of jazz (mainly Charlie Parker) on the soundtrack. The film is enjoyable, but viewers who find the aristocratic narcissism, the self-congratulating superiority, of most of Malle’s work repellent may think it’s a bit creepy. In French with subtitles. 110 min. With Michel Lonsdale, Daniel Gelin, Fabien Ferreux, and Ave Ninchi. (JR) Read more

Films By Richard Leacock

Three short films from the 60s by Richard Leacock, one of the pioneers of the cinema verite documentary style. The first twoHappy Mother’s Day and The Fischer Quintupletsare alternate versions of the same 1963 film shot in Aberdeen, South Dakota, in collaboration with Joyce Chopra for ABC TV; the former was rejected by ABC, which reedited Leacock and Chopra’s footage to yield the broadcast version. The third film is Chiefs (1968). (JR) Read more