Daily Archives: September 3, 2019

How to Write a $3 Million Script [BASIC INSTINCT]

It appears that I hated Basic Instinct when it came out in 1992 (this review appeared in the Chicago Reader on April 3), before I became something of a diehard Paul Verhoeven fan, and now I like the movie a lot. Or maybe I was a fan back then, at least in a back-handed sort of way, and wouldn’t or couldn’t admit this to myself. I offer the following as evidence of my former position, whatever it might have been.– J.R.


No stars (Worthless)

Directed by Paul Verhoeven

Written by Joe Eszterhas

With Michael Douglas, Sharon Stone, George Dzundza, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Denis Arndt, Leilani Sarelle, and Dorothy Malone.

By Jonathan Rosenbaum

What’s really news about Basic Instinct isn’t that it’s number one at the box office; after all, that happens to some movie every week. Nor is it that you get to see Sharon Stone’s (quite ordinary looking) twat for a few seconds when she uncrosses her legs. Even the bisexual and lesbian psycho serial killers, which gay groups are protesting, aren’t news.

No, the real news about Basic Instinct is that Joe Eszterhas got $3 million for the script. This is clearly a script that’s going to be studied and emulated for some time to come.… Read more »

Radical Humanism and the Coexistence of Film and Poetry in THE HOUSE IS BLACK

This article began as a lecture delivered on April 1, 2001 at the conference “Women and Iranian Cinema,” held at the University of Virginia and organized by Richard Herskowitz and Farzaneh Milani. Two years later it appeared in French translation in Cinéma/06, then in a booklet accompanying Facets Video’s DVD release of The House is Black in 2005, and it has also appeared in my collection Goodbye Cinema, Hello Cinephilia: Film Culture in Transition (University of Chicago Press, 2010). — J.R.

The Iranian New Wave is not one but many potential movements, each one with a somewhat different time frame and honor roll. Although I started hearing this term in the early 1990s, around the same time I first became acquainted with the films of Abbas Kiarostami, it only started kicking in for me as a genuine movement — that is, a discernible tendency in terms of social and political concern, poetics, and overall quality  — towards the end of that decade.

Some commentators — including Mehrnaz Saeed-Vafa — have plausibly cited Sohrab Shahid Saless’s A Simple Event (1973) (1) as a seminal work, and another key founding gesture, pointing to a quite different definition and history, would be Kiarostami’s Close-up (1990) (2).… Read more »