Daily Archives: September 30, 2020

Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!

From the Chicago Reader (May 1, 1990). — J.R.


Pedro Almodovar’s poorly made 1990 follow-up to Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown has an offensive premise and a pathetic, almost pleading desire to outrage our sensibilities with it. A 23-year-old simpleton (Antonio Banderas), released from a mental asylum where he’s lived for most of his life, kidnaps a small-time movie actress and junkie (Victoria Abril) he’s fallen for after a brief encounter during one of his many escapes from the institution. He firmly believes that in time she will return his affection, and — what do you know? — he proves to be absolutely right. If someone made an equivalent black comedy about a victim of racism falling in love with his or her oppressor, people would really be outraged, but I guess it’s OK if you’re simply trashing a trashy woman. There’s also a feeble subplot here about the actress’s director (Francisco Rabal) and sister (Loles Leon) that goes nowhere. The two lead characters are cardboard constructions, which sinks the film into tedium despite enough nudity to earn it an X rating. 111 min. (JR)


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Wholesale Memories [TOTAL RECALL]

From the Chicago Reader (June 8, 1990). — J.R.


*** (A must-see)

Directed by Paul Verhoeven

Written by Ronald Shusett, Dan O’Bannon, Jon Povill, and Gary Goldman

With Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rachel Ticotin, Sharon Stone, Ronny Cox, Michael Ironside, Mel Johnson Jr., and Marshall Bell.

The most influential SF movies of the past two decades are still very much with us, not only as landmarks but as continuing influences on newer release. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) gave us a whole slew of standbys, from the use of familiar brand names in outer space to a sense of visual design that, as critic Annette Michelson once put it, dissolved the very notion of the “special effect” as it was previously understood. In 1977 Star Wars popularized the notion of SF adventure as continuous action; and Close Encounters of the Third Kind the same year brought a certain pop religiosity (or perhaps one should say pseudoreligiosity) back to the genre, a combination of De Mille and Disney that sanctified Spielberg lighting as a means of bestowing halos on deserving characters, creatures, or locations.

Alien (1979) revitalized the claustrophobic horror-film dynamics of The Thing (1951), internalizing the monstrous and echoing David Cronenberg’s feature of 1975, They Came From Within.… Read more »


From the Fall 2020 issue of Cineaste. — J.R.


The Lost World of DeMille


By John Kobal. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 

2019, 424 pp., illus. Hardcover: $36.00. Kindle: $25.00.


Filmmakers and spectators both suffer substantially from the sort of critical typecasting fostered by the marketplace and its reliance on advertising shorthand. I once heard Terry Gilliam complain that he was surrounded by people trying to come up with “typical Gilliam touches” when those were just the sort of things he wanted to avoid. And even when I was in grammar school, Cecil B. De Mille, another large-scale director, was one of the few movie auteurs along with Disney, Ford, and Hitchcock whose artistic identity I could readily recognize, even though, as Luc Moullet points out in his 2012 book about DeMille, L’Empereur du mauve (literally, “The Emperor of Purple”), the overblown contrivances and vulgarities of DeMille’s pictures, combined with their popularity, virtually excluded him from art and serious criticism as far as the U.S. was concerned. The DeMille profile that I recognized in the Eisenhower era was basically that of a Republican patriarch who delivered epic adventures and Biblical spectaculars, an impression broadened only slightly by his 1952 circus blockbuster The Greatest Show on Earth.… Read more »