Daily Archives: August 16, 2020

A Different Kind of Swinger [GEORGE OF THE JUNGLE]

From the Chicago Reader (August 1, 1997). — J.R.

George of the Jungle

Rating ** Worth seeing

Directed by Sam Weisman

Written by Dana Olsen and Audrey Wells

With Brendan Fraser, Leslie Mann, Thomas Haden Church, Holland Taylor, Richard Roundtree, Greg Cruttwell, Abraham Benrubi, and the voice of John Cleese.

There’s no getting around it: George of the Jungle is an amiable, highly ingratiating piece of lowbrow entertainment, and the audience of mainly young children and parents I saw it with on Saturday night clearly had a ball. So did I, for that matter. If consumer advice on where to take your kids is what’s needed, change “worth seeing” into “a must-see.” On the other hand, if I — a nonparent — had to choose between seeing it a second time and seeing the black-and-white Tarzan’s New York Adventure (1942) for the third or fourth time on video, I wouldn’t blink before selecting the latter. Both movies, as it happens, are comedies — though klutzy George, who swings on vines directly into trees, is an even more ironic version of the noble savage — but there are also major differences between them that I suspect are generational. I suppose I could rattle on about the reverse-anthropological satire of “civilization” in Tarzan’s New York Adventure, but in George those gags have their counterparts in the plentiful subtitles (for the spoken Swahili) and the jokes derived from them, which are every bit as sophisticated.… Read more »

A Soldier’s Daughter Never Cries

From the Chicago Reader (September 25, 1998). — J.R.\

This unusually charming and touching Ismail Merchant-James Ivory film feels closer to memoir than fiction; it’s drawn from an autobiographical novel by Kaylie Jones (daughter of novelist James Jones), but Ivory, working with his usual screenwriting collaborator, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, reportedly fleshed out the story with some of his own experiences. In “Billy,” the first of the film’s three sections, an expatriate novelist in Paris (Kris Kristofferson) and his wife (Barbara Hershey) adopt a six-year-old French boy who’s initially resented by the couple’s natural daughter. “Francis,” set a few years later, recounts the daughter’s friendship with an eccentric American schoolmate (Anthony Roth Costanzo), and Jane Birkin has a field day as his doting single mother. Yet these last two characters, as well as the family’s maid (Dominique Blanc) and her boyfriend (Isaac de Bankole), disappear in “Daddy,” which follows the family’s return to the States once the siblings are teenagers and the father’s health is deteriorating. The three parts add up to a rather lumpy narrative, and the characters are perceived through a kind of affectionate recollection that tends to idealize them, but they’re so beautifully realized that they linger like cherished friends.… Read more »

The Tic Code

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A very special movie, about two jazz musicians with Tourette’s syndrome getting acquainted in Greenwich Village. One’s a white 12-year-old pianist (Christopher George Marquette); the other’s a black tenor saxophone player (Gregory Hines). Polly Draper (Thirtysomething), who does a beautiful job of playing the boy’s mother, wrote the sensitive script, which falters only when it reaches for an overly hasty resolution. She’s the wife of jazz pianist Michael Wolff, who’s in charge of the music here and has a mild case of Tourette’s, so she has a particular reason to be thinking about some of the fascinating questions posed hereabout willful and involuntary improvisation and how they might live together. The moments when the story and music become one are sublime, and more generally this is a very sweet and touching story about various West Village people. The jazz milieu is caught with flavor and feeling. With Desmond Robertson, Bill Nunn, and Tony Shalhoub. 91 min. (JR)… Read more »

What’s Sex Got to Do With It? (THE HOURS AND TIMES & A TALE OF SPRINGTIME)

From the Chicago Reader (November 6, 1992). — J.R.

THE HOURS AND TIMES

*** (A must-see)

Directed and written by Christopher Munch

With David Angus, Ian Hart, Stephanie Pack, Robin McDonald, Sergio Moreno, and Unity Grimwood.

A TALE OF SPRINGTIME

** (Worth seeing)

Directed and written by Eric Rohmer

With Anne Teyssère, Hugues Quester, Florence Darel, Eloise Bennett, and Sophie Robin.

It’s easy enough to understand why gay and lesbian film festivals exist, especially at this juncture in history, but I can’t say I’m happy about what they do to classifying films. After all, we don’t have festivals devoted to heterosexuals or dead white men or Catholics or intellectuals or Republicans or Democrats, and I sincerely doubt that any good film should be categorized in so parochial a fashion.

By the time this review appears, we’ll probably have elected a president — our first — who professes to consider gays and lesbians part of the American mainstream, not a “special” category. This fact alone prompts some consideration of what it means to perpetuate such categories, in a film festival or in a review.

Though it’s natural for an oppressed minority to band together — for consciousness raising, among other reasons — the meaning of such events to the public at large is something else.… Read more »

American Pimp

From the July 11, 2000 Chicago Reader. — J.R.

What’s so disturbing yet provocative about this documentary by Allen and Albert Hughes (Menace II Society, Dead Presidents) is that it essentially celebrates as well as interrogates its chosen subject. More precisely, it allows the pimps in interviews to celebrate themselves, offering them the equivalent of their own music videos in which to strut their stuff. Even if one disapproves of the results — it’s hard not to, given the countless obfuscations and omissions ensured by such an approach — there’s also more understanding of a certain kind than would come from a holier-than-thou polemic. One has to weigh the lift against the mystifications. There isn’t the sort of analysis one would hope to find (the Hugheses even sidestep the issue of whether pimps are as important to prostitution as they once were), but at least one gets a pungent look at what makes being a pimp look attractive to some people in certain circumstances. Check it out for yourself; I’ve felt at least as conflicted about the Hughes brothers’ other movies, but this one arguably accomplishes and says the most. 87 min. (JR)

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