Daily Archives: July 24, 2021

My Movies, Myself [VENICE/VENICE]

From the Chicago Reader (January 22, 1993). –J.R.

venice_keyart

VENICE/VENICE

* (Has redeeming facet)

Directed and written by Henry Jaglom

With Jaglom, Nelly Alard, Suzanne Bertish, Melissa Leo, Daphna Kastner, David Duchovny, and Diane Salinger.

Quite early in Venice/Venice writer-director-actor Dean (Henry Jaglom, transparently standing in for himself) tells an interviewer at the Venice film festival that there are two kinds of narcissists. The bad kind love only themselves, but the good kind use their self-love as a stepping-stone to loving others.

Dean (and Jaglom) obviously regards himself as the good kind of narcissist, and clearly we’re supposed to agree. But what about a third kind of narcissist, a kind Dean doesn’t mention — the narcissist whose self-love is a stepping-stone to loving others but who loves others only because he regards them as versions of himself? This is the universe of Henry Jaglom, a new-age, touchy-feely universe where everyone — everyone who matters, that is — talks and thinks and loves and hangs loose in the same manner.

The giveaway of this kind of narcissism is a series of talking-head montages of real-life interviews with women discussing the ways that movies have affected their fantasies about romance. One such montage begins the picture, and others occur again and again throughout.… Read more »

WR, Sex, and the Art of Radical Juxtaposition

In memory of Dušan Makavejev (1932-2019). Commissioned and originally published by Criterion for their DVD of WR: Mysteries of the Organism in 2007. — J.R.


Between the mid-1960s and the mid-1970s, it was generally felt among Western intellectuals and cinephiles that cutting-edge, revolutionary cinema came from Western Europe, Latin America, and the United States. Among the touchstones were Jean-Luc Godard’s films in France, Newsreel’s agitprop documentaries and their spin-offs (like Robert Kramer’s Ice and Milestones) in the United States, such diverse provocations as Lindsay Anderson’s If…. and Godard’s 1+1 in the United Kingdom, and, in Latin America, films like Lucía (Cuba), The Hour of the Furnaces (Argentina), and Antonio das Mortes (Brazil).

By contrast, the wilder politicized art movies coming out of Eastern Europe at the time — such as those of Vera Chytilová, Miklós Jancsó, and Dušan Makavejev — were treated as curiosities, aberrations that wound up getting marginalized by default. The fact that they came from Communist countries made them much harder for Westerners to place, process, and understand; in most cases, an adequate sense of context was lacking.

Part of the problem was a certain intellectual as well as sensual impoverishment arising from the one-dimensional view of Communism fostered by the cold war, even among some of the better-educated leftists and cinephiles, which tended to lump together the Eastern European countries as if they were all part of the same stereotypical gray wasteland.… Read more »

Same Old Lefty Claptrap [SILVER CITY]

From the Chicago Reader (September 16, 2004). — J.R.

Silver City

* (Has redeeming facet)

Directed and Written by John Sayles

With Danny Huston, Maria Bello, Chris Cooper, Richard Dreyfuss, Daryl Hannah, James Gammon, Kris Kristofferson, Tim Roth, Mary Kay Place, Billy Zane, Sal Lopez, Ralph Waite, Miguel Ferrer, and Michael Murphy

Almost 60 years ago, in the essay “Politics and the English Language,” George Orwell made observations about bad writing that have lost none of their relevance. “As soon as certain topics are raised, the concrete melts into the abstract and no one seems able to think of turns of speech that are not hackneyed: prose consists less and less of words chosen for the sake of their meaning, and more and more of phrases tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated hen-house,” he wrote. “The attraction of this way of writing is that it is easy. It is easier — even quicker, once you have the habit — to say In my opinion it is a not unjustifiable assumption that than to say I think.”

Ready-made phrases in the news — “smoking gun,” “weapons of mass destruction,” “war on terror” — tend to hurry listeners or readers along instead of encouraging them to think.… Read more »