Daily Archives: April 4, 2003

Passionate People

I’d be more impressed with the Chicago Latino Film Festival if it better recognized the cutting edge of contemporary South American cinema (for instance, Raul Ruiz’s 2002 Chilean Rhapsody, an ongoing miniseries). Argentinean independent cinema is said to be enjoying a renaissance, but this year’s lineup shows few signs of it. This vulgar, stupid comedy (2002, 99 min.) about artificial insemination grossed $2.4 million in Argentina, perhaps because its actors come from soap operas, but is that any excuse for showcasing it here? Juan Jose Jusid directed. (JR) Read more

The Guys

This moving drama about a New York journalist (Sigourney Weaver) helping a fire captain (Anthony LaPaglia) write eulogies for the men he lost on 9/11 is the final flowering of a play by Anne Nelson, based on real people and events, that originated with the off-off-Broadway company the Flea Theater. Since the virtues of heroism and decency it celebrates are universal, I hope it doesn’t get absorbed into the dubious agitprop of American exceptionalism, with the presumption that people who don’t want to emulate us in every possible way risk becoming collateral damage like these firemen. Directed by Jim Simpson, who staged the original production. 85 min. (JR) Read more

The Covered Wagon

This epic silent western (1923, 98 min.) by the now forgotten James Cruze is memorable for its pictorial distinction and overall narrative sweep, which helps to overcome the relatively slow pacing. With J. Warren Kerrigan, Lois Wilson, Alan Hale, and Ernest Torrence. (JR) Read more

The Beginning Or The End

This sincere, hokey docudrama about the development and deployment of the atomic bomb, released by MGM in 1947, begins with a newsreel prologue that shows the film being sealed in a time capsule for the people of 2446. By that time our contemporary efforts at dramaturgy and objectivity may look just as quaint as this does now, and to its credit, this fascinating period piece shows more misgivings about Hiroshima than Truman ever did. Norman Tauroglater known for his Jerry Lewis and Elvis Presley vehiclesdirected a script by Frank Wead; with Brian Donlevy, Robert Walker, Hume Cronyn (as Robert Oppenheimer), Tom Drake, Audrey Totter, and others impersonating Einstein, FDR, and Truman (the latter viewed only from behind). 112 min. (JR) Read more

Vladimir In Buenos Aires

The title character (Mikhail Rojkov in a strong performance) is a Russian emigre working as a security guard and trying to adjust to a corrupt Argentinean society. This 2002 feature by Diego Gachassin follows Vladimir’s affair with a part-time prostitute and his friendship with another local Russian who works as an intern, plays the saxophone, and drinks increasing amounts of vodka. Gachassin is an accomplished stylist, and the black-and-white cinematography is appropriately claustrophobic. In Spanish and Russian with subtitles. 94 min. (JR) Read more

Musical Chairs

A tedious if mainly well-acted drama (2002, 93 min.) about the forced gaiety that ensues when a young man who’s been living in Canada briefly returns to his family and former girlfriend in Argentina. Writer-director Ana Katz (who plays one of the young man’s sisters) must have had more on her mind than the threadbare plot indicates, but whatever it was, it’s obscured by her stagy direction and Diego De Paula’s opaque performance as the hero. (JR) Read more

Assassination Tango

In his first film as writer-director-actor since The Apostle, Robert Duvall effectively conveys his admiration for both the tango and his Argentinean girlfriend, Luciana Pedraza, whom he got to study the dance. He’s less effective in creating a story about an aging New York hit man (played by himself) sent to Buenos Aires on an assignment, a premise he apparently thought up as a commercial pretext for displaying his enthusiasms. (Pedraza, who’s never acted before, ironically plays the hit man’s tango instructor.) The thriller plot, while serviceable, registers as somewhat gratuitous, but the Buenos Aires locations are nicely used. With Ruben Blades and Kathy Baker. 114 min. (JR) Read more