Monthly Archives: April 2004

We Interrupt This Empire…

This collectively made documentary by the Video Activist Network cuts between the early stages of the Iraq invasion in March 2003 and massive San Francisco street demonstrations protesting it, with particular emphasis on the war profiteering of companies that supported George W. Bush’s presidential candidacy. This also offers glimpses of international demonstrations against the American-led invasion, the parroting of government propaganda on network newscasts, and the great battle sequence in Orson Welles’s Chimes at Midnight. 52 min. (JR) Read more

Al-jazeera, Arab Voices

The most important lesson in any education is recognizing what you don’t know, and this 2003 French video by Ali Essafi, about the everyday operations of the famous Arab news service, may be an eye-opening experience even for those who consider themselves sympathetic observers of the political turmoil in the Middle East. Furthermore, getting to see an Al Jazeera producer shape a news report helped me realize how little I know about equivalent practices at CNN or NBC. Even more valuable are the glimpses of how Al Jazeera reporters view America and American activitiesthe perspective our own news services seem least equipped or even inclined to give us. 52 min. (JR) Read more

Benny’s Video

From the Chicago Reader (April 2, 2004). — J.R.

People seem divided by the second film (1992) in Michael Haneke’s deadpan, low-key Austrian trilogy (after The Seventh Continent, before 71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance), about affectless contemporary violence. Some consider it an essential document of our time, while others (myself included) regard it as a letdown after its predecessor — overly familiar in its themes, though still somewhat potent in its depiction of an alienated 14-year-old boy from a well-to-do family who’s preoccupied with video technology and winds up committing a monstrous act. In some ways, the portrait of his parents is even more chilling. In German with subtitles. 105 min. (JR) Read more


Jacques Demy’s first and in some ways best feature (1961, 90 min.), shot in exquisite black-and-white ‘Scope by Raoul Coutard, is among the most neglected major works of the French New Wave. Abandoned by her sailor lover, a cabaret dancer (Anouk Aimee) brings up their son while awaiting his return and ultimately has to choose among three men. Chock-full of film references (to The Blue Angel, Breathless, Hollywood musicals, the work of Max Ophuls, etc) and lyrically shot in Nantes, the film is a camera stylo love letter, and Michel Legrand’s lovely score provides ideal nostalgic accompaniment. In his third feature and biggest hit, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Demy settled on life’s disappointments; here at least one major character gets exactly what she wants, and the effect is no less poignant. With Marc Michel, Jacques Harden, and Elina Labourdette (the young heroine in Robert Bresson’s 1945 Les dames du Bois de Boulogne). In French with subtitles. Music Box. Read more