Daily Archives: February 9, 2022

Afghan High Jinks

From the Chicago Reader (February 15, 2002). — J.R.


*** (A must-see)

Directed and written by Mohsen Makhmalbaf

With Nelofer Pazira, Hassan Tantai, and Sadou Teymouri.

“Shall I recite the Koran for the dead?”

“We are the dead; sing for us.”


There are times in history when the aesthetic quality of a work of art appears to become secondary to the urgency and currency of the work’s subject matter. The era of Italian neorealism was arguably one of those times. Kandahar — a film in which the terrible and the wonderful, the gauche and the graceful, the beautiful and the ugly, and the smart and the not-so-smart rub shoulders — surely marks another.

In many ways the qualities of Kandahar that derive from actuality operate as art ordinarily does — so that, for instance, the bad acting serves as well as good acting would to bring us closer to the people we’re seeing. In some ways, the bad acting may even serve better, because it allows more of the actors’ personal characteristics to shine through. Yet once we become aware of this, our responses to the actuality become aestheticized. And even if we could overlook the quality of the acting altogether — no easy matter — writer-director Mohsen Makhmalbaf is too much of an artist to abandon the aesthetic parts of his sensibility. Read more


From the Chicago Reader (August 23, 2002). — J.R.

This 1975 satire about a Young American Miss beauty pageant and the middle-class mentality of small-town southern California is Michael Ritchie’s best feature, though it hasn’t won anything like the reputation it deserves. Dave Kehr’s original Reader review was less than enthusiastic (Ritchie’s rage doesn’t bring much insight with it) but conceded that a few of the supporting performances are surprisingly deep — Michael Kidd, Annette O’Toole, Barbara Feldon, to which I’d add Bruce Dern, the lead. (The film also features early performances by Melanie Griffith and Colleen Camp.) Screenwriter Jerry Belson supplies an unexpected amount of pain and even horror as well as comic nuance; Martin Rubin of the Gene Siskel Film Center aptly notes that Waiting for Guffman owes a lot to this picture, and I might add that in certain respects it also anticipates American Beauty. 113 min. (JR)

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