Daily Archives: September 2, 2020

Flirting With Disaster

From the Chicago Reader (March 26, 1996). — J.R.

David O. Russell, the writer-director of Spanking the Monkey, offers another naughty comedy — this one less independent and much more farcical (1996), with more familiar names in the cast. A young east-coaster (Ben Stiller) with a wife (Patricia Arquette) and baby son is contacted by a psychologist (Tea Leoni) who wants to reunite him with his biological parents — whom he hasn’t seen since infancy — and videotape the results for her research. After attempting to placate his adoptive parents (George Segal and Mary Tyler Moore), he and his family and the psychologist all take off cross-country. The results are watchable enough — sometimes funny, sometimes over the top — and fairly fresh, though also a bit calculated. Leoni has an interesting comic presence one would like to see in toothier material, though this certainly has a few bites. With Alan Alda, Lily Tomlin, and Richard Jenkins. R, 92 min. (JR)

Read more

A Gun Up Your Ass: An Interview with Jim Jarmusch

From Cineaste, Spring 1996. — J.R.

A dozen years ago, when his second feature, Stranger Than Paradise, catapulted him to worldwide fame, Jim Jarmusch seemed at the height of arthouse fashion. Having already known him a little before then, I could tell that the extent to which he suddenly became a figurehead for the American independent cinema bemused him in certain ways. Given the aura of hip, glamorous downtown Manhattan culture that seemed to follow him everywhere, how could it not? I can still recall a New York Times profile a few years back that was so entranced by his image that it suggested that, simply because Jarmusch chose to live in the Bowery, that neighborhood automatically took on magical, transcendent properties.

When Dead Man, his sixth feature, premiered at Cannes last year, it suddenly became apparent that Jarmusch’s honeymoon with the American press was over — although his international reputation to all appearances survives intact. There are multiple reasons for this, including Dead Man itself, and before getting around to this visionary, disturbing black-and-white Western — which I regard as his most impressive achievement to date — it’s worth considering what’s happened to the American independent cinema over the past decade, which has a lot to do with Jarmusch’s changed position in the media. Read more