Monthly Archives: February 1997

The Ceremony

Not to be confused with films of the same title by Nagisa Oshima and Laurence Harvey, this expertly contrived and ultimately shocking 1995 psychological thriller is still probably the best feature by New Wave filmmaker Claude Chabrol since Just Before Nightfall (1971). It’s a mysterious, haunting tale about a sullen if dutiful maid (Sandrine Bonnaire), a postal worker who becomes her best friend (Isabelle Huppert), and a likable bourgeois family that the two women are fated to despise. Adapted from Ruth Rendell’s novel A Judgment in Stone and coscripted by psychoanalyst Caroline Eliacheff, this film unfolds with the rigor of a dream. With Jacqueline Bisset, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Virginie Ledoyen, and Valentin Merlet. In French with subtitles. 112 min. (JR) Read more

The Beautician And The Beast

Through a misunderstanding, a New York beautician (Fran Drescher) gets hired by the dictator (Timothy Dalton) of a mythical eastern European country to tutor his four childrenand guess what? She winds up teaching him the joys of love and democracy. As silly and as obvious as it sounds (and is), Ken Kwapis’s rendition of a Todd Graff script reeking of The King and I and The Sound of Music manages to be sweet and likable, largely because Kwapis directs the actors well and treats the sub-Lubitsch material as if he actually believed in it. With Ian McNeice, Lisa Jakub, and Michael Lerner. PG, 105 min. (JR) Read more

The Childhood Of Maxim Gorky

I haven’t seen it in at least 30 years, but if fond memories are anything to go by, this first feature (1938) in Mark Donskoi’s once-celebrated Gorky trilogy is richly textured in its depiction of rustic family life and remains a juicy humanist classiceven if it comes from one of the worst periods of socialist realism. (JR) Read more

Who Killed Pasolini?

Also known as Pasolini: An Italian Crime, Marco Tullio Giordana’s absorbing 1995 Italian docudrama-cum-documentary relies heavily on the techniques of JFK to explore the possibility of a right-wing conspiracy behind the violent death of poet, filmmaker, novelist, and essayist Pier Paolo Pasolini in 1975. The evidence revealed, though far from conclusive, is certainly compelling, and it led to the case being reopened. With Carlo De Filippi, Nicoletta Braschi, and Tony Bertolli. (JR) Read more

Waiting For Guffman

A bunch of city slickers (including cowriter-actor Eugene Levy, cowriter-director-actor Christopher Guest, and actors Fred Willard, Catherine O’Hara, Parker Posey, Matt Keeslar, and Lewis Arquette) have a good time ribbing middle-American yokels. The specific targets are residents of Blaine, Missouri, who are preparing a musical pageant to celebrate their town’s 150th anniversary, and the ammunition consists mainly of overwhelming condescensionwhat cornball hicks these pathetic people are, unlike the suave people playing them (most worked on This Is Spinal Tap, which set its sights somewhat higher). This 1997 comedy may be amusing if you feel a pressing need to feel superior to somebody, but the aim is too broad and scattershot to add up to much beyond an acknowledgment of small-town desperationsomething Sherwood Anderson and Sinclair Lewis did much better back in the 20s and 30s. R, 84 min. (JR) Read more