This book review appeared in the December 14, 1984 issue of the Los Angeles Reader. For more on Wurlitzer, readers are invited to check out my reviews of Walker and Candy Mountain in the Chicago Reader, both available on this site, as well as a more comprehensive piece about his work as a novelist and screenwriter, published in Written By. — J.R.
By Rudolph Wurlitzer
Alfred A. Knopf: $13.95
By Jonathan Rosenbaum
The difference between the art novel and the Hollywood novel can be as vast as the reaches between the East coast and the West coast, and any effort to wed the two in a shotgun marriage is liable to blow up in one’s face. Slow Fade, while an exceptionally and deceptively easy read, is far from being an easy book — which is one of the best things about it. That’s probably what Michael Herr means by “dangerous” in his jacket-blurb patter: “Slow Fade comes out of the space between real life and the movies and closes it up for good. A great book: beautiful, funny, and dangerous.” Any novel that begins with one character losing an eye and ends up with another losing his index finger is bound to be fraught with scary Oedipal tensions, and Slow Fade goes out of its way to make the most out of them. Read more
As I recall, this article, published in the November 2, 1990 issue of the Chicago Reader, had two immediate consequences for me. The first was that the late Gene Siskel, an acquaintance of mine from press screenings, refused to speak to me for several years, and I was no longer able to attend any more press screenings in Chicago held mainly for him and Roger Ebert. The second was that on November 11, when Rouch appeared at the Film Center, he publicly thanked me for my article, which I don’t believe had ever happened to me before with a filmmaker. So one might say that I lost an acquaintance (at least until Gene decided to forgive me several years later, after I attended a tribute to him and Roger at the Music Box) and gained a friend. —J.R.
LES MAÎTRES FOUS
Directed by Jean Rouch.
THE LION HUNTERS
*** (A must-see)
Directed by Jean Rouch
With Tahirou Koro, Wangari Moussa, Belebia Hamadou, Ausseini Dembo, Sidiko Ko ro, and Ali the apprentice.
Directed by Jean Rouch
With Damoure Zika, Lam Ibrahim Dia, and Illo Gaoudel.
Anthropologists of the year 2090 — if humanity still exists and is still sufficiently divided, sufficiently colonialist and hierarchical, to need anthropologists — may look with wonder at that revealing artifact of late-20th-century multinational capitalism, the American newspaper. Read more
From the December 24, 1999 issue of the Chicago Reader. — J.R.
Ten Best Movies of the 90s
(not including but with notes on Cradle Will Rock)
Does one’s integrity ever lie in what he is not able to do? I think that usually it does, for free will does not mean one will, but many wills conflicting in one man. Freedom cannot be conceived simply. It is a mystery and one which a novel, even a comic novel, can only be asked to deepen. — From the preface to Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood
A lot of havoc is wreaked by the usual annual ten-best lists. For starters, there’s the hard-sell behavior of publicists trying to get critics to see every major year-end release before December 31, even though most of these features won’t open in Chicago until at least January. This results in two time frames — one for national releases and another for local releases — which confuses everyone. If you play by the rules of the Chicago Film Critics Association (which should really be called the Chicago Film Publicists Association), you’re encouraged to act like a publicist and promote features on your ten-best list that haven’t opened in Chicago — but you’re strictly forbidden to act like a critic and review any of them. Read more
From the Chicago Reader (May 7, 1993). — J.R.
** (Worth seeing)
Directed by Ivan Reitman
Written by Gary Ross
With Kevin Kline, Sigourney Weaver, Frank Langella, Kevin Dunn, Ving Rhames, and Ben Kingsley
SILVERLAKE LIFE: THE VIEW FROM HERE
Directed by Tom Joslin and Peter Friedman
With Tom Joslin, Mark Massi, Charles and Mary Joslin, Whitey and Sue Joslin, and Lois Black Hill.
Is it the prime purpose of every movie we want to see to tell us comforting lies? On some level I suspect it is, and paradoxically this may be the case even with pictures that supposedly break through reassuring deceptions to give us the unvarnished truth. One way or another, even the best of films tend to deceive us about certain matters — and if they didn’t, we probably wouldn’t give them the time of day.
The two recent examples I have in mind are in other respects about as different as movies can be. With a skillful piece of Hollywood pastry like Dave, an Ivan Reitman comedy about a small-time businessman named Dave (Kevin Kline) impersonating the U.S. president (Kline as well), one might at first be drawn in by its refreshing candor about the ignobility of the office of president. Read more