From the Chicago Reader (November 13, 1992). — J.R.
** (Worth seeing)
Directed by Bernt Capra
Written by Floyd Byars, Fritjof Capra, and Bernt Capra
With Liv Ullmann, Sam Waterston, John Heard, and Ione Skye.
Made two years ago, Mindwalk is finally arriving in Chicago (at Facets Multimedia for a week), after having been announced and then withdrawn as an attraction at the Fine Arts many months ago. However, the surprise isn’t so much that the movie is turning up here late as that it’s turning up at all. In this virtual talkfest about Serious Matters set on Mont-Saint-Michel — the islet in the English Channel a mile off the coast of France — three people discuss the state of the world over the course of an afternoon. An American senator (Sam Waterston), a conservative Democrat who has just done poorly in a presidential primary, has gone to visit an expatriate poet friend (John Heard), and the two of them meet by chance a disillusioned European-born physicist (Liv Ullmann). She does most of the talking while they all walk around Mont-Saint-Michel; the two men chiefly ask questions and occasionally offer a skeptical rejoinder or corroborating gloss. The only other character of any importance is the physicist’s daughter (Ione Skye). Read more
From the Chicago Reader (May 18, 2007). I’m reposting this now to celebrate its restoration and revival at Cannes this week, which will hopefully lead to it belatedly coming out on Blu-Ray and/or DVD.
Rightly described by Dave Kehr as Jacques Rivette’s “breakthrough film, the first of his features to employ extreme length (252 minutes), a high degree of improvisation, and a formal contrast between film and theater,” this rarely screened 1968 masterpiece is one of the great French films of its era. It centers on rehearsals for a production of Racine’s Andromaque and the doomed yet passionate relationship between the director (Jean-Pierre Kalfon) and his actress wife (Bulle Ogier, in her finest performance), who leaves the production at the start of the film and then festers in paranoid isolation. The rehearsals, filmed by Rivette (in 35-millimeter) and TV documentarist Andre S. Labarthe (in 16), are real, and the relationship between Kalfon and Ogier is fictional, but this only begins to describe the powerful interfacing of life and art that takes place over the film’s hypnotic, epic unfolding; watching this is a life experience as much as a film experience. In French with subtitles. Sat 5/19, 3 PM, and Thu 5/24, 6 PM, Gene Siskel Film Center. Read more
Members of a farming family incessantly repeat the same lines of dialogue while a student prepares to leave home for school; guests at an interminable wedding cackle maniacally while the ghost of the groom’s lover interferes with the ceremony. Now over 70, the great Russian filmmaker Kira Muratova (The Asthenic Syndrome) seems to get wilder and more transgressive with every passing year. This updated merging of two early Anton Chekhov texts (the short play Tatiana Repina and the story Difficult Natures) veers closer to the mad lucidity of Gogol than to the wry realism of The Cherry Orchard. I found the extreme stylization mesmerizing, hilarious, and ultimately closer to hyperrealism than absurdism, though if you enter this without any warning you might wind up fleeing in terror. In Russian with subtitles. 120 min. (JR)
From the Chicago Reader (June 19, 1992). There’s a new DVD box set devoted to five Berliner documentaries, including this one, that’s recently come out. — J.R.
*** (A must-see)
Directed and written by Alan Berliner.
The subject of Alan Berliner’s remarkable hour-long documentary, showing Friday night at Chicago Filmmakers, is his maternal grandfather, Joseph Cassuto — a Jew born in Palestine in 1905 and raised in Egypt, where he started working for the Japanese Cotton Trading Company in his teens. He moved his family to Brooklyn in 1941, shortly before Pearl Harbor, and after the war spent nearly all his time — roughly 11 months out of every year — in Japan, until late 1956, when he transferred to the New York office. He died in 1974.
Considering Cassuto’s globe-trotting, it’s hard to imagine most Americans being interested in Intimate Stranger. It’s taken the better part of a year for it to reach Chicago, after premiering last fall at the New York film festival. After all, this is a country so uninterested in the rest of the world that the foreign policies of its presidential candidates barely seem to matter — and when they do matter, you can bet it’s the welfare of this country rather than the planet that’s at issue. Read more