Daily Archives: November 1, 1997


Edward Yang’s angriest film (1996) follows various gangsters, hustlers, jet-setters, and western expatriates in contemporary Taipei, focusing in particular on the disappearance of a tycoon who owes $100 million to the local mob and his grown son, who wants to find him. A high-energy mosaic about the way we live, especially during economic boom conditions, with as much emphasis on sexual behavior as on business tensions, this builds to a climax of shocking violence before resolving itself into a poignant love story; the emotional and generic gear changes are part of what’s so exciting and reckless about it. In some ways it’s a loose remake of Yang’s previous feature, A Confucian Confusion, but it succeeds even more in capturing the tenor of our times. (JR) Read more

The Rainmaker

Francis Ford Coppola wrote and directed this watchable adaptation of the John Grisham courtroom novel, about a hapless young lawyer (Matt Damon) persuaded to take on a huge insurance company, and it’s fairly enjoyable if simpleminded stuff. There’s a subplot about the hero becoming interested in a battered wife (Claire Danes) that isn’t fully integrated with the main story, but the secondary cast is full of flavor (with particularly high marks to Mickey Rourke, Danny DeVito, Danny Glover, Mary Kay Place, Teresa Wright, and Jon Voight), and Coppola was wise to get Michael Herr to write the hero’s offscreen narrationsomething he’d also done for Coppola in the late 70s on Apocalypse Now. (JR) Read more

Child Murders

Notwithstanding the striking, razor-sharp, high-contrast black-and-white cinematography, this often-praised 1993 feature by Ildiko Szabo strikes me as being an unintentional parody of the compulsive morbidity so often associated with recent Hungarian art moviesa trait that to my taste only Bela Tarr, Peter Gothar, and a few others have been able to justify as something more than rhetoric. In this depiction of a miserable 12-year-old boy taking care of his sick and alcoholic grandmother, befriending a young, pregnant Gypsy woman, and eventually being driven to murder by the persecutions of a neighbor, there’s a veritable fetishing of suffering unaccompanied by much understanding or depth that the mechanical banality of the music and the disembodied quality of the postsync dialogue only make harder to tolerate. Maybe there’s more going on here than I could find, but the desire to shock seems to go well beyond the urgency of having something to say. (JR) Read more

The Man Who Knew Too Little

Bill Murray plays an Iowa video-store clerk visiting his brother (Peter Gallagher) in London; he wanders into a sinister international plot strewn with corpses and dastardly schemes that he mistakes for an audience participation theater show. This is basically a Bob Hope spy farce of the 40s or 50s, decked out with multiple double entendres, only nominally updated, and given a few sparks by Murray’s mugging. It runs out of energy and inventiveness long before it ends. Adapted by Robert Farrar and Howard Franklin from Farrar’s novel Watch That Man and directed by Jon Amiel; with Alfred Molina, Richard Wilson, and Joanne Whalley. (JR) Read more

This Time For Keeps

Routinely opulent 1947 Esther Williams musical, made at MGM during a period when opulence was the coin of the realm. Lauritz Melchior, Jimmy Durante, and Xavier Cugat take up (or prolong) some of the slack, and Richard Thorpe directed. (JR) Read more