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 (September 3, 1993). — J.R.
SON OF THE PINK PANTHER
* (Has redeeming facet)
Directed by Blake Edwards
Written by Edwards, Madeline Sunshine, and Steve Sunshine
With Roberto Benigni, Claudia Cardinale, Herbert Lom, Debrah Farentino, Robert Davi, Shabana Azmi, and Burt Kwouk.
Son of the Pink Panther is the eighth or ninth Pink Panther movie, depending on how you keep count — the press materials choose to ignore Bud Yorkin’s 1968 Inspector Clouseau with Alan Arkin, a flop that pleased no one. It also represents the third time writer-director Blake Edwards has resumed the series after announcing it was definitively over. The first dormant period was 1965-’74, after the successive and successful releases of The Pink Panther and A Shot in the Dark in 1964. The second, 1979-’81, followed The Return of the Pink Panther (1975), The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976), and Revenge of the Pink Panther (1978) — which were even more successful at the box office than the first two.
Peter Sellers, the star of the series, died in 1980. But with a perversity and cynicism matched only by commercial greed, Edwards managed to grind out two more Clouseau films in the 80s, Trail of the Pink Panther (1982) and Curse of the Pink Panther (1983), which I’ve never managed to bring myself to see. 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)