From the Chicago Reader (February 1, 1997). — J.R.
Buster Keaton is a bachelor who stands to inherit a fortune if he finds himself a bride by seven o’clock in this 1925 silent feature, which Dave Kehr has described as “a cubist comedy…based on a principle of geometric progression” from the number seven. Adapted from a stage-bound play by David Belasco, it takes off into the stratosphere only at the climax, but that outlandish chase sequence alone is well worth the price of admission. On the same program: one of Keaton’s greatest shorts, Cops (1922), which he directed with Eddie Cline. Both films will be shown in 35-millimeter prints, and David Drazin will provide live piano accompaniment. Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State, Friday and Saturday, September 21 and 22, 6:15, 312-846-2800.
Even for longtime fans like myself of his independent features — Casual Relations (1973), Mozart in Love (1975), Local Color (1977), The Scenic Route (1978), Imposters (1979), Chain Letters (1984) — Mark Rappaport’s discovery of “fictional autobiography” has led to a quantum leap in his work whose consequences are still being mapped out. After already broaching some of the possibilities of video in his half-hour Postcards (1990) — succeeded most recently by his high-definition super-production Exterior Night (1994) made for German TV — Rappaport virtually invented a new form of film criticism in Rock Hudson’s Home Movies (1992), a melange of clips and commentary built around the premise of a finally out-of-the-closet Hudson (played by actor Eric Farr) reevaluating the subtexts of his films from beyond the grave. A video that won Rappaport more viewers than any of his previous features — especially after he transferred it to film and presented it at festivals — this revisionist take on film history has now been succeeded by From the Journals of Jean Seberg (1995), an even more ambitious and accomplished rereading of our movie past, with Mary Beth Hurt in the title role. After many festival screenings, the new film had its U.S.… Read more »
From the February 18, 1994Chicago Reader. I wrote this before I had a chance to see the film’s original rough cut, when it was still a musical, which I continue to regard as far and away James L. Brooks’ best movie, more than twice as good as what he finally released.. By contrast, the release version reminds me of Erich von Stroheim’s comment about the release version of his Foolish Wives: “They are showing only the skeleton if my dead child.” [2021 afterthought: This now strikes me as more than a little hyperbolic. Some of the musical version of the film is great, but a fair amount of it is weak and/or doesn’t work very well. For more on the subject, go here.] — J.R.
** I’LL DO ANYTHING
Directed and written by James L. Brooks
With Nick Nolte, Whittni Wright, Julie Kavner, Albert Brooks, Joely Richardson, Tracey Ullman, Jeb Brown, and Angela Alvarado.
First riddle: How can a movie about Hollywood professionals also be a movie about learning to be a parent? Answer: When all the Hollywood professionals in the movie act like kids or parents.
However disjointed it felt the first time I saw it, James L.… Read more »
This beautiful family saga by the great Taiwanese filmmaker Hou Hsiao-hsien begins in 1945, when Japan ended its 51-year colonial rule in Taiwan, and concludes in 1949, when mainland China became communist and Chiang Kai-shek’s government retreated to Taipei. Perceiving these historical upheavals through the varied lives of a single family, Hou again proves himself a master of long takes and complex framing, with a great talent for passionate (though elliptical and distanced) storytelling. Given the diverse languages and dialects spoken here (including the language of a deaf-mute, rendered in intertitles), this 1989 drama is largely a meditation on communication itself, and appropriately enough it was the first Taiwanese film to use direct sound. It’s also one of the supreme masterworks of the contemporary cinema, the first feature of Hou’s magisterial trilogy (followed by The Puppet Master and Good Men, Good Women) about Taiwan during the 20th century. In Mandarin and Taiwanese with subtitles. 160 min. (JR)