Daily Archives: January 16, 2021


This review appeared in the Spring 1979 issue of Film Quarterly (vol. XXXII, no. 3). Consider it Part 1 of a two-part consideration of Alan Rudolph, carried out over a span of a dozen years, to be followed by my much more ambivalent take on Mortal Thoughts (1991) for the Chicago Reader, which deals with some of the same issues involving both class and music. (I suspect that Rudolph’s best movie remains Choose Me, but I’d have to see this again to be sure.) — J.R.


Director: Alan Rudolph. Script: Rudolph. Photography: Tak Fujimoto. Music: Alberta Hunter. Lagoon Films.

Alan Rudolph’s second film was financed by Columbia, then written off as a disaster before it was released, but it has been running successfully in Paris for months and opens shortly in New York. It strikes me as the most exciting Hollywood fantasy to come along in quite some time. Admittedly, I am a Rivette enthusiast; I am fascinated by narrative suspension and indeterminacy, and tend to lose interest when a plot is laid out in full view, because I’ve usually seen it before. Remember My Name deliberately suspends narrative clarity for the better part of its running time, and never entirely eliminates the ambiguities that keep it alive and unpredictable — even though its themes, thanks to Alberta Hunter’s offscreen blues songs, are never really in question.… Read more »

En movimiento: Muratova’s Repetitions

This column for the 100th issue of Caimán cuadernos de cineis (Enero 2021) is basically an excerpt from and preview of a much longer essay about Kira Muratova written for the English feminist journal Another Gaze, and scheduled to run in its next issue early this year. Note: Arsenii Kniazkov has pointed out to me that Muratova is Ukrainian, so calling her Russian is a bit like calling Ousmane Sembene French.– J.R.

What is most provocative and sometimes pleasurable in both art and life can also sometimes be most maddening and aggravating. Kira Muratova’s films provide a good illustration of this principle because they have a disconcerting way of flirting with us and then slamming a door in our faces, sometimes even simultaneously. I’d like to suggest here that there’s a meaning and message behind her seeming madness — that a double-edged attitude of love/hatred towards both repetition and various institutions that promote an overall sense of continuity, security, and coherence, including family and the state, lies at the heart of her cinema, accounting for much of its bipolar energy.

In her Chekhov’s Motives (2002, also known as Chekhovian Motifs), perhaps the strangest and most aggressively eccentric of all her black and white features, her incantatory uses of repetition are especially evident.… Read more »

Don’t Worry, Be Unhappy [SEVEN, aka SE7EN]

From the October 6, 1995 Chicago Reader. — J.R.




*** (A must-see)

Directed by David Fincher

Written by Andrew Kevin Walker

With Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt, Gwyneth Paltrow, Richard Roundtree, R. Lee Ermey, John McGinley, Julie Araskog, Mark Boone Junior, and Kevin Spacey.


Since when have designer vomit, mannerist rot, and other chic signifiers of gloom, doom, and decline become such comforting mainstays of movies? I’m thinking not only about Hollywood but about Western cinema generally. What brings on all the driving, dirty rain in Satantango (Bela Tarr’s seven-hour Hungarian black comedy, which showed at last year’s Chicago International Film Festival) as well as in Seven, a stylish and affecting (albeit gory) metaphysical serial-killer movie? The facile solution would be to trace the gloom back to Blade Runner, film noir, maybe even to Prague school surrealism, though this would omit the Calvinist/expressionist vision of urban filth and the post-Vietnam psychopathology of Taxi Driver. In point of fact, it’s much more important to figure out the reasons for the strange allure of this grim sensibility than to worry pedantically about where it came from.

I’d ascribe at least part of this taste to the current inability to believe in or try to effect political change — a form of paralysis that in America is related to an incapacity to accept that we’re no longer number one.… Read more »