Written for the January/February 2012 Film Comment. — J.R.
Unforgivable (André Téchiné, France) Téchiné’s best films (Wild Reeds, My Favorite Season, Thieves, Unforgivable) have two major signifying traits: all the characters are major fuck-ups, and the co-writer-director loves them all equally. Some of those in his latest film, set in and around Venice, include a macho novelist (André Dussollier), his flighty daughter (Mélanie Thierry), his real-estate agent and subsequent wife (Carole Bouquet), and one of her former lovers, a detective (an especially memorable Adriana Asti), whom he hires to go looking for his daughter. The multiple crisscrossed emotions and lives are every bit as intricately and beautifully plotted and tracked as those in Thieves.—Jonathan Rosenbaum
Thanks to Mark Rappaport for recommending Sergei Loznitsa’s extraordinary 2018 Donbass, available for $5 (a one-day pass) at https://easterneuropeanmovies.com/drama/donbass, which offers the most gripping and elucidating portrait of what’s happening now in Ukraine that I’ve encountered anywhere. Many of us have already encountered Loznitsa’s expertise as a documentary storyteller, but this film is a veritable eye and ear-opener. [5/6/22]
From the Chicago Reader (December 21, 1990). — J.R.
Francis Coppola’s tragic and worthy (if uneven) conclusion to his Godfather trilogy, which he wrote in collaboration with Mario Puzo, represents a certain moral improvement over its predecessors by refusing to celebrate and condemn violence and duplicity in the same breath, or at least to the same degree. For 161 minutes, Michael Corleone (Al Pacino at his best) seeks absolution for his past sins, and although a cardinal grants it at one point (in a powerful confession scene), the film itself refuses to. While some of the allegorical implications persist (crime equals capitalism, Mafia equals family, both equal America), the decline of America in a world market where both European money and the Vatican are made to seem as corrupt as the Corleones leads to an overall change of focus; it ultimately lands this film in a metaphysical realm where the very plot seems formalized into semiabstract rituals. The inflated sense of self-importance in part two — epitomized by the playing of Nino Rota’s ubiquitous waltz theme on a church organ during a communion — is somewhat muted here, although a virtuoso set-piece climax finally strains credulity when too many important events dovetail in a single sequence.… Read more »
This interview, conducted by phone, appeared in my favorite French weekly magazine, Les Inrockuptibles, in a special double issue devoted largely to American cinema (6-19 août 1997, no. 114); I have this text only in French. — J.R.
Enfant de la balle du Sud profond, passionnant théoricien autodidacte, critique original qui préfère Jerry Lewis à Woody Allen, Jonathan Rosenbaum fait le lien cinéphile entre les Etats-Unis et le reste du monde : comment le cinéma mondial touche ou ne touche pas le public américain, comment le cinéma américain est ou n’est pas une émanation du système capitaliste.
De l’Alabama profond aux Straub : on pourrait résumer ainsi le parcours cinéphilique extraordinaire de Jonathan Rosenbaum. Né en 43 et élevé à Florence, petite ville de l’Alabama, Rosenbaum est ce qu’on peut appeler un ciné-fils, dans l’acception la plus prosaïque du mot de Serge Daney : son père et son grand-père géraient un petit circuit de salles à Florence et alentour. Rosenbaum est donc tombé dedans quand il était petit, voyant des films quotidiennement depuis l’âge de 6 ans, essentiellement le tout-venant de la production commerciale hollywoodienne. Une période qu’il a brillamment chroniquée dans sa biographie Moving places.… Read more »