This review appeared originally in Fanzine, 6/26/08. –J.R.
Given the size of his achievement, it’s astonishing that Jacques Tati made only half a dozen features, none of them bad. But if I had to single out any of these as a lesser work, I’d pick Trafic (1971), the only one that qualifies as compromised.
Others might select Parade (1973), Tati’s final film –– because it was mainly shot on video and virtually dispenses with plot by basically following the contours of a far-from-spectacular circus performance. But they’d be wrong. Though it’s the least known Tati feature and the most modest in terms of budget, Parade is by no means Tati’s least ambitious or adventurous film. In some ways it even qualifies as his most radical –– in its refusal to clearly separate life from spectacle or prioritize professional performers over unprofessional spectators. Unfortunately, the less analytical and more sentimental celebrations of Tati –– including the charming 1989 documentary by the late Sophie Tatischeff about her father, In the Footsteps of Monsieur Hulot, that’s a bonus on the second disc here –– tend to overlook this radicalism.
Trafic, on the other hand, represented a conscious step backward for Tati.… Read more »
The best works in this essential program of recent experimental shorts are the longest. Pedro Costa’s The Rabbit Hunters (2007, 23 min.), a follow-up to his 2006 Colossal Youth, performs comparable wonders with its exalted yet mournful portraits of Cape Verdeans in a Lisbon suburb. Phil Solomon’s black-and-white, animated Last Days in a Lonely Place (2007, 20 min.) magically and mysteriously combines rain, material from the video game Grand Theft Auto, and patches of sound from Nicholas Ray features. Almost as effective in bringing together the cosmic and the mundane are two ten-minute wonders, Bruce Conner’s Easter Morning (which Conner shot in 1966 and misplaced) and a 35-millimeter blowup of Larry Jordan’s 1969 Our Lady of the Sphere. And there’s provocative work by Jeanne Liotta, Gyula Nemes, and Ben Rivers. The festival continues through 6/22 at Chicago Filmmakers, the Nightingale, and other venues; see chicagofilmmakers.org/onion_fest/onion.html or next week’s Reader for more. 99 min. Thu 6/19, 8 PM, Gene Siskel Film Center. –Jonathan Rosenbaum… Read more »
The final intertitle of Nina Davenport’s 2007 documentaryI had hoped for a happy ending . . . now I’m just looking for an exit strategyaptly suggests the parallel between the endless string of misjudgments that created the so-called Iraqi war and the ones that created this film about it. Spotting on MTV a 25-year-old Iraqi film student, Muthana Mohmed, whose school in Baghdad had been leveled by American bombs, Hollywood actor Liv Schreiber got the lousy idea of hiring him as a gofer on his lousy first feature as a director, Everything Is Illuminated, which was shot in Prague. Assigned to film Mohmed’s experiences, Davenport (who also had a crew filming his friends and family back home) soon found herself stuck with someone she didn’t like whose need to live his own life was incompatible with hers to finish her film. Nobody comes off well in this tragicomedy, about mutual exploitation by people who don’t know what they’re doing. But the eventual rude awakenings, among them Davenport’s, are thoughtful and enlighteningwell worth the wait. 95 min. (JR)… Read more »