I can very happily report that since I first published this article, in the February 6, 2004 Chicago Reader, a few Barnet films have become available on DVD, including the two I wrote about, and a few more are reportedly on the way from Ruscico, a Russian label that has been issuing subtitled DVDs that I wrote about here. Earlier, Image Entertainment brought out Outskirts and The Girl with the Hatbox on a single DVD, and in France, www.bachfilms.com released both By the Bluest of Seas (under its French title, Au bord de la mer bleue), which Ruscico has subsequently released as well, and the 1943 A Good Lad/Men of Novgorod (again, under its French title, Un brave garçon). More recently, I showed clips from Okraina as well as other early Russian talkies (Deserter and Enthusiasm) in a course, “The First Transition: World Cinema in the 30s”, Kevin Lee has made a wonderful video about By the Bluest of Seas with a rapturous critical commentary written by Nicole Brenez, and in the summer of 2011, Il Cinema Ritrovato in Bologna presented a comprehensive Barnet retrospective, most of which I was able to attend.
Recently reseeing By the Bluest of Seas at the Arsenal in Berlin, as part of a program devoted to Frieda Grafe’s favorite films, I was more blown away than ever, and it struck me that the film could be viewed in some ways as an erotic view of collectivism and socialism, with the sea serving as a perfect emotional metaphor — and a perfect sort of reply to what Luc Moullet maintained in his review of Jet Pilot, which implied that eroticism, as in that film and The Fountainhead, was always tied in some fashion to right-wing thinking. Read more
From the Chicago Reader (March 12, 2004). — J.R.
* (Has redeeming facet)
Directed and written by David Koepp
With Johnny Depp, John Turturro, Maria Bello, Timothy Hutton, Charles S. Dutton, and Len Cariou.
I’ve seen four movie adaptations of Stephen King books that have writers as heroes — The Shining (1980), Misery (1990), The Dark Half (1993), and now Secret Window — and I know of a few others. This isn’t necessarily self-indulgent on King’s part. An author this prolific would eventually run out of material if he didn’t use his own experience as a writer, and besides I happen to prefer the plotlines of The Shining and Misery to those of other King stories I know. He understands what it means to be a writer driven crazy by his own demons (in The Shining) as well as by some version of his public (in Misery), and even though he makes the heroes in both cases fairly dislikable, we wind up ensnarled in their dilemmas anyway. He also seems to have an astute take on writer’s block, suggesting that writing too much and repeating oneself can be as much a form of creative blockage as writing too little. Read more
From the Chicago Reader in late August, 2005. — J.R.
Working without a script, the edgy British independent Michael Winterbottom (24-Hour Party People) shoots a young couple (played by Kieran O’Brien and American nonprofessional Margo Stilley) having real sex and alternates these scenes with numbers from nine London concerts (mostly rock) that their characters attend over a few months. Beautifully shot on DV by Marcel Zyskind, with minimal dialogue but voice-over narration from O’Brien, this 2004 feature is short on story and character yet usually holds its own as spectacle. The music and the body types may be familiar to a fault, but the performances are expressive. 69 min. (JR)