People like myself who often despair of finding a cop-and-crime movie that isn’t encrusted in cliches should take to this wonderful sleeper by writer-director George Armitage (Vigilante Force), based on a novel by Charles Willeford (Cockfighter) and coproduced by Jonathan Demme. A small-time thief and ex-con (Alec Baldwin) arrives in Miami, latches on to a local hooker (Jennifer Jason Leigh), and winds up stealing the gun and badge (along with the dentures) of police detective Hoke Moseley (Fred Ward) in order to pose as a cop while pulling off more thefts. Some of the characters and situations, such as the thief’s stylish chutzpah and his relationship to the hooker, recall Godard’s Breathless, but Armitage’s handling of the material is consistently fresh and pungent. The three lead actors all manage to be terrific without showing off — Leigh, in the course of an exquisite performance, does one of the best impersonations of a country southern accent I’ve ever heard — and the use of Miami locations is a consistent delight. The late Willeford wrote five Hoke Moseley novels (and managed to publish four), and this crisp, funny, grisly, and perfectly balanced adaptation makes me yearn for Armitage to film a few more of them. Read more
From Monthly Film Bulletin, October 1974 (Vol. 41, No. 489). -– J.R.
Great Britain, 1973
Director: Saul Bass
Ernest Hubbs, a research scientist, sets up an experimental dome in the Arizona of the resident ant population: the various species have united and are collectively destroying all their natural enemies. With the help of James Lesko, a colleague versed in computer analysis, Hubbs orders the Eldridge family to evacuate the area, and blasts the enormous anthills with grenades. When the Eldriges’ belateddeparture is precipitated by an ant attack, they are further incapacitated by the poison gas being used against the insects. Kendra, the granddaughter, is the only survivor, and is brought into the dome in a state of shock. The ants develop an immunity to the poison gas, and a subsequent experiment with mantises is foiled when Kundra hysterically smashes the lab equipment, causing Hubbs to be bitten on the hand by several ants. The ants ‘attack’ the dome with heat-focusing mirror surfaces, putting the computers out of commission; Lesko fights back with ‘white sound’, but the ants next succeed in destroying the dome’s air-conditioning unit. Lesko transmits a rectangular drawing to the ants in an effort to communicate, and receives in reply an identical drawing with a small circle containing a dot inside. Read more
Jean-Luc Godard’s zany, English-speaking quasi adaptation of the Shakespeare play has the most complex and densely layered use of Dolby sound in movies, and this screening offers one the first chance in Chicago to hear it properly. The “itinerary” of the film–one can’t quite consider it a plot — involves a post-Chernobyl view of culture in general and Shakespeare’s play in particular. Among the performers, mainly used by Godard as a painter might use colors, are stage director Peter Sellars, Molly Ringwald (as Cordelia), Burgess Meredith (as Lear), a semiincoherent Godard (as someone called Professor Pluggy), and, in smaller parts, Norman Mailer, his daughter Kate Miller, film director Leos Carax, and Woody Allen. The film certainly qualifies as a perverse provocation on more levels than one, but one of these levels — believe it or not — is Shakespeare. It may drive you nuts, but it is probably the most inventive and original Godard film since Passion. (Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Friday, March 31, 6:00 and 7:45, 443-3737)
A very enjoyable documentary survey of American comic books, from their inception in 1933 to the present, by Canadian filmmaker Ron Mann (Imagine the Sound, Poetry in Motion). Newspaper comic strips such as Little Nemo in Slumberland, Krazy Kat, Dick Tracy, Li’l Abner, and Peanuts are omitted, but within the comic-book field, Mann’s reach is fairly broad, extending from diverse superheroes such as Superman and the Fantastic Four to EC Comics to underground artists such as Robert Crumb and Spain Rodrigues to recent figures such as Art Spiegelman, Lynda Barry, and Sue Coe. Jazzy graphic devices are employed to represent the work, including simplified animation and individual frames accompanied by the artists reading the captions and dialogue aloud, and the interviews are generally both lively and pertinent. Mann also gets a lot of amusing mileage out of archival footage of anti-comic-book propaganda from the 50s. One misses the kind of in-depth formal analysis given to comics by such overseas experts as Francis Lacassin, but otherwise Mann’s grasp of his subject is lively, penetrating, and affectionate. A Chicago premiere. (JR) (Music Box, Friday through Thursday, June 30 through July 6)