Daily Archives: October 17, 2003

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

I haven’t seen the original (or wanted to) in 29 years, but this remake by Marcus Nispel revives its crudely effective variation on the hatred and fear of hillbillies in Deliverance, as teenagers stumble upon a family of mad butchers in rural Texas. The new version, with Blair Witch Project pseudodocumentary updates, carries more of a jolt, as well as fancier sets, more sadism (courtesy of R. Lee Ermey, virtually reprising his drill sergeant in Full Metal Jacket), and more pretension (a teenager crucified on a meat hook). Inspired by a true story presumably adds to the sordid thrills; maybe we should look forward to entertainments about Nazis torturing children. With Jessica Biel, Jonathan Tucker, Erica Leerhsen, Mike Vogel, Eric Balfour, and Andrew Bryniarski as lovable Leatherface. R, 98 min. (JR) Read more

The Flicker And Line Describing A Cone

Two classic experimental works with pronounced visceral effectsquite aggressive in the case of Tony Conrad’s 30-minute The Flicker (1965), which rapidly alternates black frames and white frames, and relatively soft and subtle in Anthony McCall’s 1973 projection piece Line Describing a Cone, which the audience is invited to circle and inspect. (JR) Read more

The Gleaners And I: Two Years Later

Agnes Varda’s wonderful documentary The Gleaners and I (2000) considered all kinds of gleaners, starting with people who gather leftovers from harvesting and proceeding to related activities in both the arts and day-to-day life. Probably the most popular film Varda ever made, it brought her correspondence and gifts from around the world, and in this 60-minute epilogue she shows off and catalogs her bounty and tells what happened to most of the people she interviewed earlier. On a French DVD combining the two films (both subtitled in English) she’s in effect created an interactive feature that allows viewers to leap back and forth between the works and follow the fates of these characters. In French with subtitles. (JR) Read more

Runaway Jury

It won’t make gun lobbyists happy and certainly has traces of liberal hokum, but this bracing courtroom thriller is the most entertaining and satisfying John Grisham adaptation I’ve seen. A young widow in New Orleans brings a civil suit against a gun manufacturer after her husband perishes in an indiscriminate massacre, and an old-fashioned local lawyer (Dustin Hoffman) takes the case while a slick corporate hit man (Gene Hackman) flies in to set up a high-tech command center that monitors and manipulates the ongoing trial. Meanwhile, one of the jurors (John Cusack) and a mysterious woman (Rachel Weisz) with resources of their own conspire to sell the verdict to the highest bidder. Director Gary Fleder and four screenwriters make an extremely complicated plot easy to follow and absorbing to watch. Burnham Plaza, Century 12 and CineArts 6, Chatham 14, City North 14, Crown Village 18, Davis, Ford City, Gardens 1-6, Golf Glen, Lake, Lawndale, Lincoln Village, Norridge, 600 N. Michigan, 62nd & Western, Village. Read more