Daily Archives: June 11, 2004

All Quiet On The Western Front

Recently rediscovered and restored, this silent version of Lewis Milestone’s 1930 feature, with a synchronized score, is evidently the version that was begun first. The better-known sound version, which originally ran 140 minutes, is now only a minute shorter than this one, which doesn’t necessarily imply that the same footage has been used throughout. I haven’t seen this, but if its impact compares with the talking version’s, it should be well worth checking out. With Lew Ayres and Louis Wolheim. 133 min. (JR) Read more

The Terminal

Tom Hanks hams it up in this Steven Spielberg comedy, as a sort of grown-up E.T. visiting the U.S. from a fictional eastern European country. After landing at JFK airport he learns that his native land has been torn asunder by civil war; able neither to return nor acquire a visa, he winds up living at the airport for a spell, becoming the pal of other disenfranchised little people who work there. Early reports suggested this might owe something to Jacques Tati’s Playtime, which proves to be true mainly in the product placement and a few bits of physical comedy. As usual Spielberg is too bored by everyday life to use his premise for anything but a fairy tale, whose cheap pathos suggests a bad Chaplin imitation. This grows progressively phonier and eventually devolves into Mr. Roberts, with Stanley Tucci filling in for James Cagney as an airport bureaucrat. With Catherine Zeta-Jones; written by Sacha Gervasi, Andrew Niccol, and Jeff Nathanson. PG-13, 128 min. (JR) Read more

Writers On The Borders: A Voyage In Palestine(s)

Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish recruited eight writers from around the worldincluding China, Europe, the U.S. (Russell Banks), and South Africa (Breyten Breytenbach)to tour various high places of spirituality that have also been sites of Israeli aggression, and Samir Abdallah and Jose Reynes record their statements and discussions as well as their travels. This 2003 French documentary is more effective as a collective and sometimes eloquent act of witness than as a source of fresh information. In English and subtitled Arabic, Hebrew, French, Spanish, and Mandarin. 80 min. Read more

The Purple Plain

Gregory Peck plays a traumatized Canadian who crash-lands in Burma during World War II and recovers his strength while traveling cross-country. Adapted by Eric Ambler from an H.E. Bates novel, directed by the otherwise unnotable Robert Parrish, and shot in color by Geoffrey Unsworth, this British war drama (1954) has achieved something of an underground reputation in the U.S. (it’s been favorably compared to The Thin Red Line) but appears mainly to have been forgotten in the UK. With Win Min Than and Maurice Denham. 102 min. (JR) Read more

The Stepford Wives

After losing her job as a network TV president, a spindly Nicole Kidman suffers a nervous collapse; she heads to a Connecticut suburb to recuperate with her hubby (Matthew Broderick) and kids, but finds the housewives there too perfect and bimbolike. If this satirical SF comedy has an auteur, it’s screenwriter Paul Rudnick, whose cheerful contempt for American wholesomeness animated In & Out and Addams Family Values. Glenn Close and Bette Midler get some comic mileage out of the premise, which originated in a novel by Ira Levin (Rosemary’s Baby) but also suggests Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Unfortunately this is much tamer than it had to beRudnick Lite, meaning on the edge of evaporation. Frank Oz (In & Out) directed; with Christopher Walken and Roger Bart. PG-13, 93 min. (JR) Read more