From the Soho News (August 20, 1981). — J.R.
Film India: Indian Film Festival Museum of Modern Art, through August 23
Buster Keaton Film Festival Lincoln Plaza, through September 19
Directed for Comedy Regency, through October 17
Honky Tonk Freeway Written by Edward Clinton
Directed by John Schlesinger, opens August 21
AUGUST 7: The first movie I see for this column isn’t a light comedy, but it sure puts me in a sunny mood. The prospect of a three-hour Indian film in Temil with no subtitles is a little off-putting, I would say -– wouldn’t you? On my way into the sparsely populated auditorium of the Museum of Modern Art this afternoon, I hear not one but two separate senior citizens crack jokes about what a nice opportunity this is for a nap.
And yet, just as Indian film buff Elliott Stein has predicted, I have surprisingly little trouble following the plot and action of Chandralakha (1948). The quaintly illusionistic charm of a black-and-white movie like this, about a good and bad brother vying for the throne in a mythical kingdom – with a large palace protected by a drawbridge –- is part of its primal pull from the beginning. Read more
A program note for the Pacific Film Archive, April 5, 1983, to launch a program I selected entitled “Institutional Qualities and Casual Relations: The Avant-Garde Film Today”, put together with the help of Edith Kramer. Most of the films in the series were related to both my book Film: The Front Line 1983, published around the same time, which includes separate chapters on both Sara Driver and Leslie Thornton, and the two courses I was teaching concurrently as visiting professor at the University of California Berkeley Film Studies Department. — J.R.
You Are Not I and Adynata 7:30
Two very different and accomplished films about female identity, Sara Driver’s You Are Not I (1981, 50 min.) and Leslie Thornton’s Adynata (1983, 30 min.) are both dialectically conceived; there the resemblance ends. The first is a very close adaptation of a Paul Bowles story written in the late 1940s, filmed in black and white [cinematography by Jim Jarmusch], about a psychic and territorial war fought between two sisters, one of them a schizophrenic. The second is a non-narrative film about the ideological configurations and semiotic constructions of the East as seen by and filtered through the West, particularly in relation to the female figure — articulated through many different kinds of found material and variable film stock. Read more
From the Chicago Reader (January 28, 2005, slightly tweaked in 2014). Now that this is out on Blu-Ray, the Technicolor seems every bit as luscious to me as it must have when I was age six, and the periodic prophecies (“His name will be written in the Book of Judges”; “Men will tell his story for a thousand years”) are no less indelible. — J.R.
If you can tolerate the hokeyness and appreciate the unabashed sado-masochism and bondage fantasies, you’re likely to find this 1949 feature one of Cecil B. De Mille’s most enjoyable sword-and-sandal epics, delivered with his characteristic showmanship. Victor Mature and Hedy Lamarr are the title characters, backed by George Sanders and Angela Lansbury, but the real attractions are the kitschy spectacle (lions, collapsing temples) and De Mille’s special way with religion, sex, and violence. 128 min. (JR)