From the Chicago Reader (June 24, 2004). — J.R.
*** (A must-see)
Directed and written by Michael Moore.
It’s bracing to see the documentary coming into its own these days, generating some of the excitement and interest that accompanied foreign (mainly European) pictures back in the 60s, when there were far more independent theaters to show them. But the New Wave and its many tributaries were perceived by critics and audiences largely as a revolution in style; the new explosion of interest in documentaries has more to do with content. Think of the broad range of subjects covered in the past few years by ABC Africa, Bowling for Columbine, Oporto of My Childhood, Joy of Madness, Stevie, The Same River Twice, Capturing the Friedmans, and My Architect: A Son’s Journey. This year alone has brought such diverse explorations as El Movimiento, The Fog of War, Les modeles de “Pickpocket,“ Super Size Me, Ford Transit, Control Room, and Route 181: Fragments of a Journey in Palestine-Israel.
Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11, the most explosive of the lot, has enjoyed the biggest buzz of any film released this year, especially after winning the top prize at the Cannes film festival in May (from a jury that was more American than French).… Read more »
From the Chicago Reader (September 1, 1999). My thanks to the Video Data Bank for enabling me, (finally, recently) to see this film a second time. — J.R.
This 1998 Caspar Stracke feature is one of the rare experimental films in 35-millimeter, and though I could preview it only on video, it kept me fascinated even in that format. Stracke describes it as moving in a circle with neither a beginning nor an end; in the version I saw, the credits come in the middle. A lecture on the philosophical and psychoanalytic implications of the invention of the telephone by theorist Avital Ronell eventually turns into a story in black and white about a woman who has a lotus blossom growing in her left lung; at different times this film comes across as documentary, essay, performance art, and silent throwback (complete with intertitles and irises), and the capabilities and rhetoric associated with both computers and VCRs play a part in the continuously shifting and evolving discourse. (JR)
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From the Chicago Reader (May 28, 1999). — J.R.
A tender and sometimes very funny romantic comedy set in a New England seaside town, this is also something of a parable about what overheated summers can do to romantic imaginations. An unsigned love letter falls into the hands of various individuals who make creative assumptions about the author and intended recipient; many of them work at a secondhand bookstore. I suspect that a fair amount of the wit derives from Cathleen Schine’s source novel, but producer and lead actress Kate Capshaw (who plays the owner of the bookstore and has never been better), director Peter Ho-sun Chan (Comrades, Almost a Love Story), and screenwriter Maria Maggenti (who wrote and directed The Incredibly True Adventures of Two Girls in Love) make a wonderfully harmonious team. The other featured actors — Ellen DeGeneres, Tom Selleck (also at his best), Tom Everett Scott, Blythe Danner, Geraldine McEwan, and Julianne Nicholson — all seem to be on the same wavelength as well. (The music by Luis Bacalov also is quite appealing.) At times Chan’s quirky direction fudges the storytelling, but I didn’t mind. Esquire, Gardens, Lake, Norridge, Webster Place.
— Jonathan Rosenbaum
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): film still.… Read more »