Something of a film maudit for director Raul Ruiz, whose career is already pretty subterranean. Done in English (coscripted by the English novelist and film critic Gilbert Adair), shot in Portugal (though set in southern France), and coproduced by Roger Corman, it concerns a group of Americans who wind up in a small medieval town, get lost when they go on an excursion, remain lost for several months, and eventually revert to cannibalism. In the middle of the shooting, Wim Wenders turned up at the same location to start filming The State of Things, and a good many of the cast and crew members decamped for the Wenders film. That meant Ruiz’s film had to be completed well ahead of schedule, and unfortunately the picture suffers from the haste. But the plot and ambience are still intriguing, and the picture is certainly recognizably Ruizian in both its metaphysical framework and its dark humor (1971). (JR)
From the August 23, 1991 Chicago Reader. This review is also reprinted in my first collection, Placing Movies (1995). — J.R.
*** (A must-see)
Directed by Joel Coen
Written by Ethan Coen and Joel Coen
With John Turturro, John Goodman, Judy Davis, Michael Lerner, John Mahoney, Tony Shalhoub, and Jon Polito.
I’m not one of the Coen brothers’ biggest fans. I walked out of Blood Simple, their first feature. The main sentiment I took away from Raising Arizona and Miller’s Crossing — their second and third efforts, both of which I stayed to the end of — was that at least each new Coen brothers movie was a discernible improvement over the last. Raising Arizona may have had some of the same crass, gratuitous condescension toward its country characters as Blood Simple, but it also had a sweeter edge and more visual flair. In both craft and stylishness, Miller’s Crossing was another step forward, and even if I never really believed in either the period ambience or the characters — the dialogue bristled with anachronisms, and Albert Finney’s crime boss seemed much too blinkered and naive for someone who was supposed to be ruling a city — the film nevertheless demanded a certain attention.… Read more »
Jurors: Lorenzo Codelli, Alexander Horwath, Mark McElhatten, Paolo Mereghetti, Jonathan Rosenbaum, Peter Von Bagh.
BEST DVD 2010 / 2011
Segundo de Chomón 1903-1912(Filmotecade Catalunya [ICIC]/Cameo Media s.l.) EL Cine de La Fantasia. A production by Cameo and Filmoteca Catalunya.
The first edition of a long awaited series devoted to the great Spanish master of magic films, hand coloring and technical special effects. Offering 114 minutes of 31 astonishing titles, complete with a 111-page tri-lingual book containing an informative essay by Jean M. Minguet and credits on each film and the 12 different archives that provided restored prints. (http://www.cameo.es/portal/tabid__13173/consulta__De%20Chomon/default.aspx)
BEST SPECIAL FEATURES (BONUS)
The Night of the Hunter(Criterion: www.criterion.com)
For the invaluable and detailed film record of Charles Laughton directing his only feature, drawing from the more than eight hours of outtakes discovered by Bob Gitt and including fascinating rehearsals in which Laughton acts out some of the roles himself.
MOST ORIGINAL CONTRIBUTION TO FILM HISTORY
Orphans 7 – A Film Symposium (New York University’s Orphan Film Symposium, www.orphanfilmsymposium.blogspot.com)
For bringing to the attention of DVD watchers a rich and fascinating area of film history: so-called “ephemeral” films, including amateur films, activist filmmaking, industrial films, etc.,… Read more »