Daily Archives: July 16, 2021

Global Discoveries on DVD: Assorted Lessons from the Past and Present

My DVD column in Cinema Scope 44, Fall 2010. — J.R.

1. A confession

Since retiring from my job as a weekly reviewer in early 2008, I’ve been discovering that I usually prefer watching mediocre films of the past (chiefly from the 30s through the 70s) to watching mediocre films of the present — unlike some of my former readers, who irrationally conclude that I’ve stopped writing about movies because I no longer work for the studio airheads in implementing their latest ad campaigns. That is, I no longer train most of my attention on contemporary industry releases, as I was obliged to do for the preceding 20 years, because, in keeping with Raymond Durgnat’s apt observation that dated films sometimes have more to teach us than “timeless” classics, I’m looking for stuff I can chew on. (Try to imagine what literary criticism would be like if most or all of its practitioners decided that 2010 publications currently on sale at K-Mart comprised the bulk of all the literature ever published that was worthy of our close attention.)

demetrius-and-the-gladiators-ad

This is why, for instance, I wound up picking up a copy of Delmer Daves and Philip Dunne’s sequel to The Robe, Demetrius and the Gladiators (1954), at a video store in Córdoba, Argentina in late July (although, as I later discovered, I could have picked it up on Amazon for roughly the same price): not because it’s any sort of masterpiece (though it’s probably a better movie than The Robe), but because I find it interesting from multiple vantage points, e.g.,… Read more »

Huckleberry Fem [HOUSEKEEPING]

This was originally published in the January 22, 1988 issue of the Chicago Reader. — J.R.

HOUSEKEEPING **** (Masterpiece)
Directed and written by Bill Forsyth
With Christine Lahti, Sara Walker, Andrea Burchill, Anne Pitoniak, Margot Pinvidic, and Bill Smillie.

Two or three days and nights went by; I reckon I might say they swum by, they slid along so quiet and smooth and lovely. — The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Marilynne Robinson’s novel Housekeeping is virtually defined by its slow, swirling rhythms, but one of the first things that is apparent about Bill Forsyth’s passionate, faithful film adaptation is that, as story telling, it starts out with a hop, skip, and jump; and although an idea of leisurely pacing is sustained throughout, the movie never dawdles, stalls, or grinds to a halt. Like the magical opening of Terrence Malick’s 1973 Badlands and the no less incandescent ending of his 1978 Days of Heaven –- two more films in which the heroine’s offscreen narration plays a musical role in the narrative structure -– the story unfolds with the combined immediacy and remoteness of a fairy tale. An elliptical stream of details and events spanning three generations flows by in minutes, without imparting any feeling of haste.… Read more »