This appeared in the July 26, 1996 issue of the Chicago Reader. — J.R.
Up Down Fragile
Directed by Jacques Rivette
Written by Laurence Côte, Marianne Denicourt, Nathalie Richard, Pascal Bonitzer, Christine Laurent, and Rivette
With Côte, Denicourt, Richard, Anna Karina, André Marcon, Bruno Todeschini, Wilfre Benaiche, Enzo Enzo, and the voice of László Szabó
The inspiration of Up Down Fragile? The MGM low-budget films of the 50s that were shot in four or five weeks on sets left over from other films. In particular, a Stanley Donen movie, Give a Girl a Break , a simple film shot in next to no time with short dance numbers. — Jacques Rivette in an interview
Entertainment does not…present models of utopian worlds, as in the classic utopias of Sir Thomas More, William Morris, et al. Rather the utopianism is contained in the feelings it embodies. It presents, head-on as it were, what utopia would feel like rather than how it would be organized. — Richard Dyer, “Entertainment and Utopia”
Out of Jacques Rivette’s 17 features to date — in which I include his 12-hour serial Out 1 (1970) as well as both parts of his Jeanne la pucelle (1994) — 9 are set in contemporary Paris. Read more
1. GREED (Stroheim, 1924)
2. SUNRISE (Murnau, 1927)
3. THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS (Welles, 1942)
4. CITY LIGHTS (Chaplin, 1931)
5. LOVE ME TONIGHT (Mamoulian, 1932)
6. THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES (Wyler, 1946)
7. STARS IN MY CROWN (Tourneur, 1950)
8. LOVE STREAMS (Cassavetes, 1984)
9. A.I. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (Kubrick & Spielberg, 2001)
10. WHEN IT RAINS (Burnett, 1995) Read more
This commissioned essay was for a touring retrospective catalogue, The American New Wave, 1958-1967, published by the Walker Art Center and Media Center/Buffalo in 1982 (and slightly tweaked just now, in June 2010). It’s dated by my erroneous assumption, shared by most critics during this period, that the dialogue of Shadows was improvised, corrected years later by the research of Ray Carney — although I still stand fully behind my opening paragraph. I was also mistaken in my assumption that Charles Mingus was entirely responsible for the film’s score, especially in the second version. (Ross Lipman has written brilliantly and in detail on this subject.)
My writing of this article was both interrupted and ultimately informed by the shock of the suicide of my older brother David. Regarding the details about lapsed Catholicism apropos of The Savage Eye, I can still recall a phone conversation I had at the time with the late Veronica Geng, a former colleague at Soho News (and lapsed Catholic) and a writer and editor at The New Yorker whom I plumbed for information and advice. Perhaps I went a little overboard in my expressions of scorn for the purple prose in The Savage Eye’s commentary; today I find it rather fascinating for its kinship with Beat writing from the same period, for better and for worse. — Read more
From the September 24, 1999 issue of the Chicago Reader. — J.R.
Rating *** A must see
Directed by Sam Mendes
Written by Alan Ball
With Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening, Thora Birch, Wes Bentley, Mena Suvari, Chris Cooper, Peter Gallagher, and Allison Janney.
American Beauty is a brilliant satirical diagnosis of what’s most screwed up about life in this country, especially when it comes to sexual frustration and kiddie porn. Or American Beauty is a hypocritical piece of kiddie porn, brilliantly exploiting an audience’s sexual frustration and turning it into coin. Take your pick.
Paradoxical as it sounds, both of these statements may be true. American Beauty is, after all, a Hollywood movie, like The Graduate (1967) and Risky Business (1983), two somewhat comparable historical markers that gleefully conflate social criticism and fantasy wish fulfillment so you can’t tell them apart. Whether American Beauty will become a hit like those earlier movies is hard to predict, but if it doesn’t it won’t be for lack of trying. Like The Graduate, it sympathizes with rebellion and satirizes complacency, but that doesn’t stop it from taking digs at sexually deprived middle-aged women as if they were somehow the root of all evil. Read more