From the Chicago Reader (March 3, 1993). — J.R.
Despite the title, I assumed this drama about the last 12 hours of Jesus’s life would include something about his teachings, at least in flashback. But the Sermon on the Mount is reduced to two sound bites, and miracles and good works barely get a glance; director Mel Gibson stresses only cruelty and suffering, complete with slow motion and masochistic point-of-view shots. The charges of anti-Semitism and homophobia hurled at the movie seem too narrow; its general disgust for humanity is so unrelenting that the military-sounding drums at the end seem to be welcoming the apocalypse (rather like the mass slaughter following the Mexican rebel’s torture in The Wild Bunch). If I were a Christian, I’d be appalled to have this primitive and pornographic bloodbath presume to speak for me. With James Caviezel, Maia Morgenstern, Monica Bellucci, and Hristo Naumov Shopov; Benedict Fitzgerald (Wise Blood) collaborated with Gibson on the script. In Aramaic, Latin, and Hebrew with subtitles. R, 127 min. (JR)
From the Chicago Reader (May 1, 1993). — J.R.
Paul Mazursky’s umpteenth remake of 8 1/2, which only goes to show that if you keep imitating the same movie you’re bound to get progressively staler, not fresher. And unlike such brittle 8 1/2 imitations as All That Jazz and Stardust Memories, this one starts out mushy and gets softer and softer as it develops. The story covers about 36 hours in the life of celebrated writer-director Harry Stone (Danny Aiello) after he arrives in New York from Paris for the preview of his new picture, a teen fantasy called The Pickle that he considers a sellout and fears will be a flop. Before long, we also meet his longtime agent (Jerry Stiller), 22-year-old French girlfriend (Clotilde Courau), and several relatives or ex-relatives (“I’m your ex-wife, Ellen,” Dyan Cannon announces to him and the camera at a surprise party, just in case he or we don’t remember.) Periodic black-and-white cutaways to Stone’s Jewish childhood in Brooklyn and clips from his new color movie show off cinematographer Fred Murphy’s talents much more than Mazursky’s, whose wit seems to have deserted him almost entirely; the final impression is much closer to Jaglom’s Venice/Venice than to Fellini. Read more
From the Chicago Reader (April 16, 1993). — J.R.
*** (A must-see)
Directed and written by Robert Rodriguez
With Carlos Gallardo, Consuelo Gomez, Peter Marquardt, Jaime De Hoyos, and Reinol Martinez.
I was several weeks late catching up with El mariachi, a fine little action picture in Spanish that’s been playing at the Water Tower (and opens this week at the Biograph and Bricktown Square). Judging from all the reviews and press stories I read beforehand, an essential part of the movie’s meaning — almost treated as if it were part of the plot — is that its 24-year-old writer-director, Robert Rodriguez, made it for $7,000 and, now a client of Hollywood’s International Creative Management agency, has a two-year contract with Columbia Pictures, the movie’s distributor, that includes plans to shoot a $6 million English-language remake. Much less important, it would seem, is the fate of the movie’s title hero (played by Carlos Gallardo, also Rodriguez’s coproducer). All he ever wanted, “el mariachi” makes clear, is to be a folk musician like his ancestors, though he loses his guitar, the use of one hand, his music, his girlfriend, and possibly even his soul in the process of saving his skin, which entails becoming a successful killer and appropriating the Anglo villain’s weapons. Read more