Monthly Archives: September 2001

Heist

Another bit of casual whoring from David Mametwhich in this case means another thriller about thieves. More entertaining than The Spanish Prisoner, in part because the mannerist Mamet dialogue is more distinctive, it also turns out to be more conventional and predictable. Gene Hackman stars as a master thief blackmailed by his fence (Danny DeVito) into pulling off one last heist before he can retire with his wife and accomplice (Rebecca Pidgeon); with Sam Rockwell, Delroy Lindo, and Ricky Jay. 109 min. (JR)… Read more »

The Vertical Ray of the Sun

More plot heavy than The Scent of Green Papaya or Cyclo, this third feature by Tran Anh Hung concerns four siblings living in close proximity to each other in contemporary Vietnam. One sister is married to a novelist, another is married to a photographer, and the third and youngest (Tran Nu Yen-khe, the director’s wife and a prominent player in his films) shares an apartment with her younger brother. Their story is fairly conventional and not especially well told, though as usual Tran’s images are so sensual and beautiful that I was rarely bored or frustrated. 112 min. Music Box, Friday through Thursday, September 21 through 27. … Read more »

Don’t Say A Word

Will supershrink Michael Douglas save his kidnapped daughter by extracting a six-digit number from a violent 18-year-old schizophrenic (Brittany Murphy) so a ruthless bank robber (Sean Bean) can retrieve a priceless jewel he’s spent ten years looking for? I’m supposed to care, but this all-day sucker put me to sleepthough it’s possible I retreated out of self-defense. Forget awarding stars to this drivel; I wouldn’t mind giving it four or five lacerations, which is the minimum it gleefully dishes out to practically all its characters, good as well as evil, young as well as oldwith a few extra dollops of divine retribution saved for the end to satisfy the most puerile revenge fantasies. Gary Fleder directed, Anthony Peckham and Patrick Smith Kelly adapted a book by Andrew Klavan, and Famke Janssen (who enters the movie with a broken leg, putting her a few steps ahead of the others), Jennifer Esposito, and several other actors get their share of the lickings. 110 min. (JR)… Read more »

Falling Down, Walking, Destroying, Thinking: A Conversation with Béla Tarr

The following exchange appeared in Cinema Scope no. 8, September 2001. — J.R.

In the past, when I’ve interviewed filmmakers it’s been at my own initiative — or at least at the initiative of an editor making an assignment. This time, at the Buenos Aires Festival of Independent Film in April 2001, where I was serving on the jury and introducing Béla Tarr at some of his screenings, someone handed me a tape recorder, and Mark Peranson agreed to transcribe the interview afterwards if I would speak to Béla, who’s been a friend ever since Sátántangó. I hope that the casual grammar on both sides of this conversation doesn’t obscure too much of the meaning. (J.R.)

BELA TARR: […] In Sátántangó, we had a set. The doctor’s flat, it was built.

JONATHAN ROSENBAUM: You know, that’s my favorite scene in the film.

TARR: Yes, but it was built! It is artificial, but you don’t feel it in the movie…

ROSENBAUM: Maybe that’s why I like it so much, because it’s in such a small space.

TARR: No, it wasn’t small.

ROSENBAUM: But it feels small in the film.

TARR: Yeah, sure.

ROSENBAUM: Was the actor playing the doctor a professional actor or a nonprofessional?… Read more »

Films By Thierry De Mey And Daniele Wilmouth

Thierry De Mey’s dance film Rosas danst Rosas (1997, 57 min.), receiving its Chicago premiere, was shot in a Belgian building designed by Henry van de Velde. Curtain of Eyes, a striking black-and-white dance film (1997) composed for the camera by Daniele Wilmouth, is the product of a six-month collaboration with four Japanese dancers from Kyoto’s Saltimbanques butoh troupe. The dancers move in an abstract space, mainly in close-ups and medium shots, and Wilmouth’s textured imagery is every bit as detailed as the dancing. (JR)… Read more »

Haiku Tunnel

Josh Kornbluth codirected this comedy with his brother Jacob, cowrote it with the same brother and John Bellucci, and stars as an office temp who becomes an inept secretary when he winds up with a steadier job working for a demonic tax attorney. Some of the gags here are funny, but they aren’t executed effectively enough to score. 90 min. (JR)… Read more »

Hit And Runway

The directorial debut of writer, composer, and musician Christopher Livingston is a loosely autobiographical comedy about his relationship with his own screen-writing partner, on this film as well as othersgay stand-up comic and comedy writer Jaffe Cohen. Livingston is straight, but the comic bonding between his and Jaffe’s fictional counterparts, played respectively by Michael Parducci and Peter Jacobson, isn’t just about the mismatch of their sexual preferences; it’s also about the overall tension between their very different personalities. Not everything works here, but there are some pretty funny momentsincluding Hoyt Richards’s impersonation of Clint Eastwood, and Kerr Smith’s embodiment of a young actor with a passion for Jewish menand the overall tone is likable. With Judy Prescott. 108 min. (JR)… Read more »

The Vertical Ray Of The Sun

More plot heavy than The Scent of Green Papaya or Cyclo, this third feature by Tran Anh Hung concerns four siblings living in close proximity to each other in contemporary Vietnam. One sister is married to a novelist, another is married to a photographer, and the third and youngest (Tran Nu Yen-khe, the director’s wife and a prominent player in his films) shares an apartment with her younger brother. Their story is fairly conventional and not especially well told, though as usual Tran’s images are so sensual and beautiful that I was rarely bored or frustrated. In Vietnamese with subtitles. 112 min. (JR)… Read more »

Waterloo Bridge

The 1940 Mervyn LeRoy remake is much better known, but this early-sound weepie (1931, 81 min.), based on a play by Robert E. Sherwood, was the second feature of the great James Whale (Show Boat, Bride of Frankenstein). Mae Clarke is an American chorus girl who marries an officer in London during World War I; after he’s reported missing and his family rejects her, she drifts into prostitution. The film’s precode dialogue is said to be much saltier than that of LeRoy’s version, and Bette Davis appears in a small role. (JR)… Read more »