Monthly Archives: March 2005

Be Cool

I barely remember Get Shorty (1995), in which Miami loan shark Chili Palmer (John Travolta) breaks into the criminal side of the movie business courtesy of Elmore Leonard, but it’s got to be better than this dumbass sequel that has him crashing the LA music scene. Travolta’s teamed up with an equally out of place Uma Thurman, and they’re the only ones the movie doesn’t ridicule. Director F. Gary Gray doesn’t have a clue about how to film this couple dancing, and Peter Steinfeld’s crude script confuses character with shtick while racing us through a story where loyalties and motivations turn on a dime. I was really glad when it was over. With Vince Vaughn, Cedric the Entertainer, Andre Benjamin, Steven Tyler, Christina Milian, Harvey Keitel, Danny DeVito, and an uncredited James Woods. PG-13, 113 min. (JR)… Read more »


Film and video artist Jem Cohen (whose other work includes impressionistic documentaries on Fugazi and Elliott Smith) spent six years shooting this striking and potent 16-millimeter experimental feature in and around hundreds of malls, from Dallas to Berlin to Melbourne, and the fact that none of them can be placed or individuated is part of his point. A subtle mix of documentary and fiction, the film tells two separate stories about solitary women tied to these spaces: a 31-year-old Japanese executive (Hal Hartley regular Miho Nikaido) who’s studying the international theme-park industry for a corporation, and a young drifter (Mira Billotte of the New York band White Magic) who’s run away from home and is living and working illegally on the fringes of a mall. Both stories are interesting, though the latter is much more convincing; what makes the strongest impact is the superb documentary photography and the found audio segmentstelemarketing ads left as voice messages. 99 min. (JR)… Read more »

Smell of Camphor, Fragrance of Jasmine

Iranian filmmaker Bahman Farmanara produced one of Abbas Kiarostami’s early features and won praise for his own work, including Prince Ehtejab (1974). But state officials began rejecting his film proposals in the mid-70s, and for much of the past 30 years he’s lived in the West. In this welcome comeback (2000) he plays a middle-aged director, rather like himself, who ruefully agrees to make a documentary about Iranian death rituals for Japanese TV. His wife has been dead five years (Farmanara’s wife, to whom he dedicated the film, was alive and well), and after discovering that their cemetery has planted someone else next to her, he has the strange experience of witnessing his own funeral, one of many fantasy sequences. This oddball comedy is full of wry asides and unexpected details; ultimately it’s more memorable for its ideas than its sounds and images, but it’s still fascinating and entertaining. In Farsi with subtitles. 93 min. Thu 3/10, 7 PM, Univ. of Chicago Doc Films.… Read more »