Daily Archives: July 15, 2022

French for Beginners (UN AIR DE FAMILLE)

From the Chicago Reader (October 2, 1998). — J.R.

Un Air De Famille

Rating *** A must see

Directed by Cedric Klapisch

Written by Agnes Jaoui, Jean-Pierre Bacri, and Klapisch

With Bacri, Jaoui, Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Catherine Frot, Claire Maurier, and Wladimir Yordanoff.

Foreign-film distribution in this country often operates on the brand-name principle — as is apparent with Un air de famille (1996), playing at the Music Box this week. Director and cowriter Cedric Klapisch had considerable commercial success here with his third picture, the 1995 When the Cat’s Away (this one is his fourth). I haven’t seen Klapisch’s first two; what I know about him mainly is that he received a degree from New York University’s graduate film school and worked as a director of photography on a dozen short films in New York before returning to France to make his own films.

When the Cat’s Away is an intelligent enough movie, but the adjectives I’d apply to it are “charming” and “slight”; Un air de famille, which I like a good deal more, is neither. The most significant aspect of the film is the couple, Agnes Jaoui and Jean-Pierre Bacri, who wrote the very successful play on which it’s based. Read more

True Grit [ROSETTA]

From the Chicago Reader (January 14, 2000); also reprinted in my collection Essential Cinema. — J.R.


Rating **** Masterpiece

Directed and written by Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne

With Emilie Dequenne, Fabrizio Rongione, Anne Yernaux, Olivier Gourmet, and Bernard Marbaix.

By Jonathan Rosenbaum

I saw Rosetta three weeks ago, and haven’t recovered from it since. In fact, I didn’t see any film since the Dardennes’, except films for work. It moves me to the heart of my heart, this film about the necessity of life, the impossibility of morality, the soil of human experience. [A teaching colleague] told me that he couldn’t watch it because he thought too much about [Robert Bresson’s] Mouchette, but precisely, it’s at last Mouchette today, our Mouchette, the one we deserve, without any heaven and any transcendence. Her scream, ‘Mama! Y’a d’la boue! Y’a d’la boue!’ [‘Mama! It’s full of mud! It’s full of mud!’] haunts me, I can’t forget it, it’s exactly the despair of being in life without any pathos, any margin, just real life in the immediacy of the impulse. — E-mail from film critic Nicole Brenez

The 80s practically ended with the euphoric takeover of Tiananmen Square by more than a million demonstrators led by students, many with access to fax machines, though a brutal government crackdown followed. Read more

Still Circling [PUSHING TIN]

From the Chicago Reader (April 30, 1999). — J.R.

Rating ** Worth seeing

Directed by Mike Newell

Written by Glen Charles and Les Charles

With John Cusack, Billy Bob Thornton, Cate Blanchett, Angelina Jolie, Jake Weber, Kurt Fuller, Vicki Lewis, Matt

Ross, Jerry Grayson, and Michael Willis.

The following notice recently appeared on the Internet Movie Database:

“In an unprecedented action, MGM said…that it is recalling all video copies of The Basketball Diaries (1995), in which Leonardo DiCaprio in a dream sequence is depicted shooting a teacher and students while wearing a long, black trenchcoat. The decision was prompted by the shootings in Colorado and references to the movie in numerous news reports. The movie was recently acquired by MGM as part of the PolyGram film library that it bought from Seagram in January. ‘We are going to attempt to get as many of these videos off the shelf as possible,’ a studio spokesman told today’s [April 22] Wall Street Journal. ‘We think it’s the responsible thing to do under the circumstances.’ He said retailers and distributors would be offered full refunds. News reports also observed that the current hit movie The Matrix also features numerous scenes of gun violence in which the hero, played by Keanu Reeves, also wears a black trenchcoat. Read more