Daily Archives: May 14, 2020

Business as Usual at Cannes (2009)

This is the 13th one-page column I published in Cahiers du Cinéma España; it ran in their July-August 2009 issue. — J.R.

Writing from Chicago in May, during the Cannes film festival, I’ve been reflecting lately how much  this festival remains a spectator sport even for those who don’t attend it. I’ve attended it nine times in all, 1970-1973 and 1994-1998, and my most enduring impression about it is how quickly everything that happens there gets turned into some form of business — a process that is both hilarious and somewhat horrifying.

Two immediate examples come to mind which occurred during my first and most recent visits there. In 1970, I attended the world premiere of Woodstock, only five days after four students were shot and killed by National Guardsmen at Kent State University in Ohio. Michael Wadleigh, the hippie director — a tall, commanding figure dressed in suede — dedicated the film to those four students and to “the many deaths to come” in the ongoing political struggles of the period. When the screening was over, he stood by the exit and calmly handed out black arm bands to anyone who wanted to wear one. I wore one myself for a day or two.… Read more »

“Sad!”: Why I Won’t Watch Antichrist

My contribution to the 2019 anthology Unwatchable, published by Rutgers University Press and edited by Nicholas Baer, Maggie Hennefeld, Laura Horak, and Gunnar Iversen. — J.R

My refusal to watch Lars von Trier’s Antichrist (2009), even after Criterion   generously sent me a review copy, isn’t a position I arrived at suddenly or lightly. Even though the film premiered the year after I retired as a weekly reviewer, thus obviating any possible professional obligation, my decision wasn’t only based on the near-certainty that I would hate it — which, after all, hadn’t prevented me from twitching all the way through The Passion of the Christ five years earlier. Nor was it founded on any conviction that von Trier is devoid of talent, a conviction I don’t have.


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Trying retroactively to account for my steadfast refusal to see the film, arrived at eight years ago, I can only take the blatantly ahistorical, illogical, and quintessentially Trieresque tack of citing a remark of his quoted in the Guardian only six months ago. It concerns his latest project (I won’t assist his ad campaign by mentioning the title) — a feature about a serial killer (natch) that takes the serial killer’s viewpoint (ditto).… Read more »

Spanking The Monkey

From the Chicago Reader (July 1, 1994). — J.R.

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A first feature by American independent writer-director David O. Russell, this traps its hero, a premed college freshman, in his family’s suburban home for the summer. Forced to give up an internship to take care of mother (laid up with a broken leg) while his philandering father, a traveling video salesman, is out on the road, the not very likable hero finds himself in one tragicomic mishap after another involving his father’s convoluted instructions, care of the family dog, making out with a high school senior, and a growing sexual involvement with his desperate mother. Despite a certain originality, the movie isn’t really a success, not only because the plot bites off more than it can chew (the film doesn’t conclude; it simply stops), but also because, like its hero, it has some trouble distinguishing between petty irritations and cataclysmic traumas. But at least the performances are fresh and fairly nuanced. With Jeremy Davies, Elizabeth Newitt, Benjamin Hendrikson, Alberta Watson, Carla Gallo, and Richard Husson (1994). (JR)

spanking-the-monkeyRead more »