Monthly Archives: August 1997

The Mask Of Fu Manchu

Though light years away from anything resembling political correctness, this 1932 horror thriller about a Chinese madman (Boris Karloff) threatening an expedition to the tomb of Ghengis Khan is often magnificent, imaginative stuff: bombastic pulp at its purple best. Charles Brabin directed this adaptation of Sax Rohmer’s novel; with Lewis Stone, Karen Morley, Jean Hersholt, and Myrna Loy as Karloff’s daughter. 72 min. (JR) Read more


Amiable hack and faux-naif sensationalist Nick Broomfield (Heidi Fleiss: Hollywood Madam) turns his documentary lens on Pandora’s Box, a legal New York establishment offering sadomasochistic services without intercourse, and gets the dominatrices as well as the (almost exclusively male) clientele to rattle on about what they’re doing and why, often during their sessions. Interesting up to a point but also fairly obvious in many of its discoveries (such as the fact that many of the customers craving discipline work around Wall Street), this is the sort of thing you find on cable late at nighthalf education, half titillation, and not too bothered about which is which. (JR) Read more

When The Cat’s Away

The original title of Cedric Klapisch’s 1997 comedy is Chacun cherche son chat, a French expression literally meaning Everyone looks for his own cat. The searcher in this caseultimately looking for a boyfriend as well as a petis a young makeup artist (Garance Clavel) who shares a flat with a gay man (Olivier Py), leaves her cat Gris-Gris with an elderly cat lover (Renee Le Calm) when she goes off on holiday, and returns to find Gris-Gris missing. Vaguely reminiscent of the 60s English comedy A Taste of Honey, this minor but agreeable charmer offers a much more authentic look at a Paris neighborhood (Bastille in this case) than most French movies; it was enormously successful in France, and given its relaxed populist spirit it isn’t hard to see why. (JR) Read more

My Sex Life . . . Or How I Got Into An Argument

Three hours long, Arnaud Desplechin’s highly watchable French comedy drama (1996) about the sex lives of 30ish Parisian intellectuals and academics has been compared to everything from Jean Eustache’s The Mother and the Whore to Reality Bites. For me, it’s a lot better than the latter and not nearly as good as the former. Desplechin undeniably catches something generational and poignant about the various relationships of a part-time philosophy teacher (Mathieu Amalric)including one with a woman (Marianne Denicourt) who winds up getting engaged to his best friend. The influences here, by the way, are not only cinematic (the aforementioned Eustache) but also literary; novelist Philip Roth is the most overt reference point. 178 min. In French with subtitles. (JR) Read more

Love Serenade

Another intriguing piece of Australian self-hatred, this comic first feature with dashes of magical realism by writer-director Shirley Barrett, set in a desolate backwater of Queensland, focuses on two lovelorn sisters living together, aged 21 (Miranda Otto) and 26 (Rebecca Frith), whose lives are disrupted by a glamorous middle-aged disc jockey from Brisbane (George Shevtsov) who moves next door to them. According to the neofeminist presuppositions of this fable, men are wholly other: the glib, villainous disc jockey literally proves to be a fish and even the 21-year-old’s employer, a nudist in his spare time, is at best a sympathetic geek. I could have done without the wall-to-wall music as well as the thematic confusion that can’t always distinguish between romantic desperation and sexist exploitation (although, God knows, this story has plenty of both); still, this has a lyrical sense of place that carries one over some of the rough patches. (JR) Read more


Not the Berg opera but a 1995 Hungarian adaptation of the original Georg Buchner play, suitably grim and set around a moldering railroad yard. I can’t recall it very well, except for the fact that I preferred it to Werner Herzog’s previous version. Janos Szasz directed, and Lajos Kovacs plays the eponymous hero. (JR) Read more

Mao, The Real Man

An hour-long experimental documentary from Hungary by Szilveszter Siklosi (Cautionary Tales on Sex) about the mythical properties and manipulative uses of archival materials. Read more

The Organizer

Marcello Mastroianni in one of his best roles, as a late-19th-century labor leader orchestrating a strike at a Turin textile plant. Directed by Mario Monicelli (Big Deal on Madonna Street) with an exquisite handling of period, this powerful film had a sizable impact when it came out in 1963, though it Read more