Monthly Archives: May 2018

Heading South

From the Chicago Reader (March 3, 2006). — J.R.

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This bold departure by French director Laurent Cantet (Human Resources, Time Out) follows three middle-aged Americans (Karen Young, Charlotte Rampling, Louise Portal) whose vacations in Haiti during the brutal reign of Baby Doc Duvalier include encounters with male prostitutes. Cantet is concerned not only with the women’s psychologies and complex interrelations as they compete for the same local hunk (Menothy Cesar) but also with the global economics at work. The film tackles more than it can master, but it’s never less than fascinating, and all three leads are exceptional. Screenwriter Robin Campillo adapted three short stories by Dany Laferriere. In English and subtitled French and Creole. 106 min. (JR)

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Two-Lane Blacktop

From the Chicago Reader (February 23, 2001). — J.R.

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This exciting existentialist road movie by Monte Hellman, with a swell script by Rudolph Wurlitzer and Will Corry and my favorite Warren Oates performance, looks even better now than it did in 1971, although it was pretty interesting back then as well. James Taylor and Dennis Wilson are the drivers of a supercharged ’55 Chevy and Oates is the owner of a new GTO (these nameless characters are in fact identified only by the cars they drive); they meet and agree to race from New Mexico to the east coast, though side interests periodically distract them, including various hitchhikers (among them Laurie Bird). (GTO hilariously assumes a new identity every time he picks up a new passenger, rather like the amorphous narrator in Wurlitzer’s novel Nog.) The movie starts off as a narrative but gradually grows into something much more abstract — it’s unsettling but also beautiful. 101 min. A 35-millimeter print will be shown; film scholar Hank Sartin will introduce the film and give a lecture after the screening. Gene Siskel Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Tuesday, February 27, 6:00, 312-443-3737.

— Jonathan Rosenbaum

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Love in the Time of Thatcherism [HIGH HOPES]

From the Chicago Reader (April 21, 1988). — J.R.

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HIGH HOPES

*** (A must-see)

Directed and written by Mike Leigh

With Philip Davis, Ruth Sheen, Edna Dore, Philip Jackson, Heather Tobias, Leslie Manville, David Bamber, Jason Watkins, and Judith Scott.

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One of the most interesting things about Mike Leigh’s up-to-the-minute bulletin from Thatcher England is its title. Because this wonderful English movie is partly a comedy, and because it’s very much about the way that Londoners live nowadays, one would assume a title like High Hopes is ironic. Among most of my English friends, the expectations currently expressed about their country’s future couldn’t be much lower; and at first glance, there’s nothing in this movie to contradict their pessimism.

But take a second look at Leigh’s movie — which is sharp and funny and broad enough to warrant it — and you might find some reason for revising this opinion. England is after all a country of survivors, and one of the best ways of surviving in extreme situations (say, the London blitz) is to assume the worst and start from there. That’s what the leading characters and heroes of High Hopes do, a very charismatic, funky post-hippie couple named Cyril (Philip Davis) and Shirley (Ruth Sheen). Read more

Man Of Cinema: Pierre Rissient

From the Chicago Reader (September 28, 2007). The second photograph below is by Pamela Gentile. — J.R.

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Sometimes the most powerful and influential people are protected by their relative obscurity, and it’s hard to think of a better illustration of this principle in the film world than the multifaceted, eccentric, controversial Pierre Rissient, whom I’ve known for 35 years. Among other achievements, he’s probably discovered more important filmmakers than anyone else I know — figures ranging from Cy Endfield to Lino Brocka to Jane Campion to Abbas Kiarostami. It takes most of Todd McCarthy’s well-used 110 minutes in this lively documentary to explain all the creative, behind-the-scene activities Rissient generates in relation to criticism, filmmaking, distribution, exhibition, and programming, and even though this is mainly the sympathetic view of a friend, the portrait is complex and nuanced. Among the many interviewees, Olivier Assayas is especially perceptive when he describes Rissient as being like a teenager. In English, French, and Mandarin with subtitles. (JR)

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In defense of spoilers (2006 Reader blog post)

This was/is my first post for the Chicago Reader‘s film blog; there aren’t/weren’t any hyperlinks. This is reprinted in my collection, Goodbye Cinema, Hello Cinephilia.  — J.R.

In defense of spoilers

Tue, Nov 14, 2006 at 3:54 PM

Some people’s obsessive preoccupation with spoilers has been driving me batty lately. It isn’t only among moviegoers; many fiction readers are equally afflicted. Visiting a Thomas Pynchon chat room lately in conjunction with a recent prepublication reading of Against the Day, I find other Pynchon freaks breathlessly advising one another about whether they should read the short review of the novel that Time has already posted, which actually mentions — horrors! — one of the characters getting killed, something that happens, if I remember correctly, roughly a fifth of the way through this almost 1100-page novel. Percentage-wise, that’s about as far as you have to watch The Death of a President [see photo] before you witness the assassination that the title already announces. Honestly, does that spoil the movie for anybody?

Give me a break. Is this form of worry a fit activity for grown-ups?

My objections to spoiler-think are multiple, so I might as well set them down in a list:

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