Daily Archives: July 7, 2020

Ghost World

From the August 1, 2001 Chicago Reader. — J.R.

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If, like me, you’ve been wondering how Terry Zwigoff, the brilliant documentary filmmaker who made Crumb, would negotiate his shift to fiction filmmaking, here’s your answer: brilliantly. Ghost World, a very personal adaptation of the Daniel Clowes comic book that Zwigoff wrote with Clowes, either captures with uncanny precision what it’s like to be a teenage girl in this country at this moment or fooled me utterly into thinking it does. Thora Birch (American Beauty) plays Enid, a comic book artist (her notebook was actually drawn by Sophie Crumb, Robert’s daughter) who plans to share an apartment with her best friend Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson). Enid befriends Seymour (Steve Buscemi), a lonely, much older collector of rare blues and jazz 78s, shortly after she almost graduates from high school. To get a diploma, she has to take an art course over the summer, and our glimpses of this add up to the funniest portrait of American “art appreciation” I’ve ever seen, with Illeana Douglas, as the teacher, rivaling Elaine May as a satirist. Never predictable, this movie is often hilarious as well as touching, subtly adapting the mise en scene of Clowes’s original without being fancy or obtrusive about it.… Read more »

Problems with Pasolini

From The Soho News (June 4, 1980). -– J.R.


Porcile (Pigpen)

A Film by Pier Paolo Pasolini

Bleecker Street Cinema, June 6



A Film by Pier Paolo Pasolini

Based on the 120 Days of Sodom

By the Marquis de Sade

Bleecker Street Cinema, June 11 and 12

“The problem with Pasolini,” a friend observed to me succinctly many years ago, “is that he wants to be fucked by Jesus and Marx at the same time.” A “pre-industrial,” populist poet and novelist from northern Italy whose relation to the Catholic Church and the Italian Communist Party were as passionately idiosyncratic as the homoeroticism of his films, Pasolini remains, nearly five years after his brutal murder, an indigestible provocateur in relation to our culture – someone who can be neither entirely absorbed nor totally rejected, but lingers like a troubling, irritating sore.

The recent and very belated release of his version of The Canterbury Tales (1972), the second part of his “trilogy of life” after The Decameron (1971), offers spectators a chance to catch more farting jokes than can probably be found in Blazing Saddles. His vastly superior version of The Arabian Nights (1974), which rounds off the trilogy –- probably the most sustained flirtation with paganism to be found in his work –- has yet to reach these provincial shores.Read more »

Where They’re Coming From [WESTERN]

From the Chicago Reader (April 9, 1999). — J.R.


Rating *** A must see

Directed and written by Manuel Poirier

With Sergi Lopez, Sacha Bourdo, Elisabeth Vitali, Marie Matheron, and Basile Sieouka.

The other day I received an E-mail from someone wanting to know how I could have described The Tree of Wooden Clogs as Marxist when it was so clearly a religious film. Actually Dave Kehr had written the capsule review of Ermanno Olmi’s feature 14 years ago, but I hastily E-mailed back that any Italian could tell you that Marxism can easily be seen as a form of religion. Afterward I realized that this response was flip. It would have been better to say that Catholicism and Marxism have had a long and complex coexistence in Italy, and that it was unrealistic to expect that they would be mutually exclusive as systems of belief; the career of Pier Paolo Pasolini is proof of how intimately the two can be intertwined, regardless of the contradictions involved. That led me to think about how the simple characterizations of European Marxism in this country foster such confusion. Shortly after this I happened to read Andre Bazin’s description of The Bicycle Thief as one of the great communist films — an aspect of the film I suspect couldn’t have been apparent to American audiences when it won the Oscar for best foreign film in 1949.… Read more »