Monthly Archives: November 2004

Edward Said: The Last Interview

If you’d like a clear sense of literary critic, social commentator, and Palestinian spokesperson Edward Said, check out this informal 114-minute interview, gracefully conducted by British journalist Charles Glass and unobtrusively recorded for British TV by Mike Dibb shortly before Said died of leukemia at age 67. I would have preferred more attention to his groundbreaking books, though his comments on Orientalism provide a succinct and lucid introduction. And his nuanced, impassioned remarks on the Palestinian struggle, including some highly critical remarks about Yasir Arafat, challenge the distortion of his positions that often surfaces in the press. (JR)… Read more »

WR: Mysteries of the Organism

We may forget that the most radical rethinking of Marx and Freud found in European cinema of the late 60s and early 70s came from the east rather than the west. Indeed, it’s hard to think of a headier mix of fiction and nonfiction, or sex and politics, than this brilliant 1971 Yugoslav feature by Dusan Makavejev, which juxtaposes a bold Serbian narrative shot in 35-millimeter with funky New York street theater and documentary shot in 16. The “WR” is controversial sexual theorist Wilhelm Reich and the “mysteries” involve Joseph Stalin as an erotic figure in propaganda movies, Tuli Kupferberg of the Fugs “killing for peace” as he runs around New York City with a phony gun, and drag queen Jackie Curtis and plaster caster Nancy Godfrey pursuing their own versions of sexual freedom. In English and subtitled Serbo-Croatian. NC-17, 85 min. 16mm. Thu 12/2, 8 PM, Northwestern Univ. Block Museum of Art.… Read more »

Edward Said: The Last Interview

If you’d like a clear sense of literary critic, social commentator, and Palestinian spokesperson Edward Said, check out this informal 114-minute interview, gracefully conducted by British journalist Charles Glass and unobtrusively recorded for British TV by Mike Dibb shortly before Said died of leukemia at age 67. I would have preferred more attention to his groundbreaking books, though his comments on Orientalism provide a succinct and lucid introduction. And his nuanced, impassioned remarks on the Palestinian struggle, including some highly critical remarks about Yasir Arafat, challenge the distortion of his positions that often surfaces in the press. Sat 11/27, 7:30 PM, and Wed 12/1, 6:15 PM, Gene Siskel Film Center.… Read more »

Kinsey

Writer-director Bill Condon won positive reviews for Gods and Monsters (1998), his gay-themed drama about film director James Whale. In contrast to that rigidly conceived movie, this biopic of pioneering sex researcher Alfred Kinsey (Liam Neeson) might be described as thoughtfully inconclusive. Apart from some unexaggerated notations about American puritanism in the 1940s and ’50s, it’s more a work of exploration than a thesis, and Condon mainly avoids sensationalism. The period detail is better than in most Hollywood movies, and the secondary cast (Laura Linney, Chris O’Donnell, Peter Sarsgaard, Timothy Hutton, John Lithgow, Tim Curry, Oliver Platt, and Dylan Baker) isn’t bad. R, 118 min. (JR)… Read more »

Murnau’s 4 Devils: Traces Of A Lost Film

This remarkable 40-minute re-creation of F.W. Murnau’s lost silent film 4 Devils, which he made at Fox just after Sunrise, was assembled by film historian Janet Bergstrom using stills, drawings, sketches, and script drafts. Originally released on a DVD of Sunrise, it’s the first comprehensive account of the film since its 1928 release. (JR)… Read more »

Park Row

This neglected Samuel Fuller feature from 1952, a giddy look at New York journalism in the 1880s, was his personal favorite–he financed it himself and lost every penny. A principled cigar smoker (Gene Evans) becomes the hard-hitting editor of a new Manhattan daily, where he competes with his former employer (Mary Welch) in a grudge match loaded with sexual undertones; meanwhile a man jumps off the Brooklyn Bridge trying to become famous, the Statue of Liberty is given to the U.S. by France, and a newspaper drive raises money for its pedestal. Enthusiasm flows into every nook and cranny of this cozy movie: when violence breaks out in the cramped-looking set of the title street, the camera weaves in and out of the buildings as through a sports arena, in a single take. “Park Row” is repeated incessantly like a crazy mantra, and the overall fervor of this vest-pocket Citizen Kane makes journalism sound like the most exciting activity in the world. 83 min. Also on the program: Jerky Turkey (1944), a cartoon by Tex Avery. Sat 11/20, 8 PM, LaSalle Bank Cinema.… Read more »

Kinsey

Writer-director Bill Condon won positive reviews for Gods and Monsters (1998), his gay-themed drama about film director James Whale. In contrast to that rigidly conceived movie, this biopic of pioneering sex researcher Alfred Kinsey (Liam Neeson) might be described as thoughtfully inconclusive. Apart from some unexaggerated notations about American puritanism in the 1940s and ’50s, it’s more a work of exploration than a thesis, and Condon mainly avoids sensationalism. The period detail is better than in most Hollywood movies, and the secondary cast (Laura Linney, Chris O’Donnell, Peter Sarsgaard, Timothy Hutton, John Lithgow, Tim Curry, Oliver Platt, and Dylan Baker) isn’t bad. R, 118 min. Century 12 and CineArts 6, Pipers Alley, River East 21, Wilmette.… Read more »

An Affair At Akitsu

Adapted from a novel by Shinya Fujiwara, this early feature (1962) by Yoshishige Yoshida follows a love affair that serves as a metaphor for postwar Japan. With Mariko Okada, Yoshida’s wife. In Japanese with subtitles. 113 min.… Read more »

About Baghdad

Shot in July 2003, this collectively made video documentary is by far the most comprehensive account I’ve seen of how Iraqis view the U.S. war and occupation. The main interlocutor, a poet and novelist with an Iraqi father and an American mother, doesn’t conceal his opposition to President Bush, but the spectrum of positions is unusually broad, from plenty of pro-American people to Iraqis who’ve never forgiven the U.S. for its support of Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war. Most of the credited filmmakers have both Middle Eastern and American roots, which may help to explain why this national portrait shows a country as divided as the U.S. is. In Arabic with subtitles. 89 min. (JR)… Read more »

After The Sunset

Pierce Brosnan isn’t playing James Bond this time around, but the setting (Paradise Island in the Caribbean) and the Playboy-like sensuality (concentrated on Salma Hayek and Naomie Harris) seem drawn from the same commercial/colonial fantasy. Brosnan’s a jewel thief resting up from his last score, Hayek’s his girlfriend and sometime assistant, Harris and Woody Harrelson are a cop and an FBI agent trying to snare him, and Don Cheadle is a suave local gangster. It’s silly adolescent stuff, but director Brett Ratner and screenwriters Paul Zbyszewski and Craig Rosenberg serve it up gracefully. PG-13, 100 min. (JR)… Read more »

About Baghdad

Shot in July 2003, this collectively made video documentary is by far the most comprehensive account I’ve seen of how Iraqis view the U.S. war and occupation. The main interlocutor, a poet and novelist with an Iraqi father and an American mother, doesn’t conceal his opposition to President Bush, but the spectrum of positions is unusually broad, from plenty of pro-American people to Iraqis who’ve never forgiven the U.S. for its support of Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war. Most of the credited filmmakers have both Middle Eastern and American roots, which may help to explain why this national portrait shows a country as divided as the U.S. is. In Arabic with subtitles. 89 min. Sat 11/13, 5 PM, and Mon 11/15, 6 PM, Gene Siskel Film Center.… Read more »

The Adventures Of Iron Pussy

The experimental filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul (who got his MFA from the School of the Art Institute) has proved himself a real original with films like Mysterious Object at Noon and Blissfully Yours. This 2003 video, codirected by Michael Shaowanasai, is a campy action adventure about a shy nobody who doubles as a butt-kicking government spy. Indefatigably cheerful about its own silliness, enlivened by muscial numbers and asides about Thai politics, it often feels like it’s about to collapse into giggles. It’s worthy of its title, if not its celebrated director. In Thai with subtitles. 90 min. (JR)… Read more »

Alfie

For me the calling cards of the 1966 film were Michael Caine as the title character, a working-class chauffeur and ladies’ man, and the music of Sonny Rollins. Jude Law and the team of Mick Jagger and Dave Stewart may sound like viable replacements, but this new adaptation of Bill Naughton’s play is more concerned with attitude than character and too moralistic to be much fun. Hollywood hack Charles Shyer (Father of the Bride) has discarded the London setting and cockney milieu, moving the action to New York City (though, perversely, this was shot in London). He seems less interested in storytelling than in TV-commercial fast cutting, though Alfie’s ladiesMarisa Tomei, Nia Long, Jane Krakowski, Sienna Miller, and Susan Sarandonprovide some minimal interest and continuity; with Omar Epps. R, 105 min. (JR)… Read more »

Kings of the Sky

Chicagoan Deborah Stratman, who specializes in experimental documentaries, spent four months with tightrope walker Adil Hoxur–cited in the Guinness Book of World Records and the latest descendant of a family of tightrope performers over many centuries–as he and his troupe toured Chinese Turkestan and performed nightly in small villages. Among his biggest fans are fellow Uyghurs, a Turkic Muslim people seeking religious and political autonomy. Stratman emphasizes the everyday over the exotic, a consistently fresh and personal way of relating to the material; she trusts viewers to make many of the right connections but never comes across as esoteric. Her sense of rhythm in this digital video, particularly evident in the way she edits and lingers over certain kinds of movement, is especially impressive. 68 min. Stratman will attend the screenings; this is a U.S. premiere. Fri-Sat 11/5-11/6, 8:30 PM, Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State, 312-846-2800.… Read more »