From the Chicago Reader (September 23, 1994). — J.R.
QUIZ SHOW ***
Directed by Robert Redford
Written by Paul Attanasio
With Rob Morrow, Ralph Fiennes, John Turturro, David Paymer, Christopher McDonald, Elizabeth Wilson, and Paul Scofield.
Behind the opening and closing credits of Quiz Show we hear two different pop versions of “Mack the Knife” — Bobby Darin’s bright, Lyle Lovett’s funereal — perhaps an indication that director Robert Redford has something faintly Brechtian in mind. If so, probably the most relevant Brecht passage is the exchange that concludes the 12th scene of Galileo, when Andrea, the son of Galileo’s housekeeper, quotes the maxim “Unhappy is the land that breeds no hero.” Galileo replies, “No, Andrea: ‘Unhappy is the land that needs a hero.'”
On the other hand, this is Robert Redford we’re talking about, who’s been a hero in this unhappy land for the past three decades, not someone who’s ever been known to seriously rock any boats. A better indication of what makes Quiz Show so interesting, suggestive, and fruitful (if not Brechtian) is the showroom spiel for a glittering Chrysler 300 given to the movie’s hero, congressional investigator Richard N. Goodwin, shown out shopping just before the opening credits. Read more
From the Chicago Reader (July 1, 1996). — J.R.
A little over two hours of recent videos by the great essayistic filmmaker Chris Marker (Sans soleil), ranging from playful personal works — such as Bestiary, put together between 1985 and 1993 and consisting of a record of the filmmaker’s cat’s responses to Ravel, the repeated staring of an owl, and two separate videos shot at a zoo — to documentaries for European television, including one that features Andrei Tarkovsky shooting the last sequence of his last film and then watching the film on video from his sickbed, a playful 1988 tour of Tokyo streets, a 1990 survey of reunified Berlin, a monologue by the painter Roberto Matta about his own work, and a fascinating account of a community of Bosnian refugees in Slovenia pirating TV signals to watch the news together. The videos about Tokyo, Berlin, and Tarkovsky aren’t subtitled, but they’re still highly watchable (and they contain bits of English, including actress Arielle Dombasle’s charming imitation of an American accent in the Tokyo work). The overall experience is roughly akin to channel surfing in a European hotel with a satellite dish. (JR)
From the Chicago Reader (March 1, 1993). — J.R.
A revisionist look at the last 67 days of Vincent van Gogh’s life by the highly talented writer-director Maurice Pialat (The Mouth Agape, A nos amours, Under Satan’s Sun), with singer-songwriter-actor Jacques Dutronc — the Bob Dylan of Paris and the lead in Godard’s Every Man for Himself — in the title part. Ironically, this 155-minute French art movie shows the painter’s existence, including his sex life, to be a lot happier than is generally depicted — much sunnier, in fact, than Vincente Minnelli’s or Robert Altman’s films on the same subject; in any case, it certainly qualifies as a personal work. (The period re-creations of Jean Renoir and John Ford remain the key reference points.) While the results shed little light on van Gogh’s painting, some painters I know are smitten with this film, and the mise en scene and the period flavor are both quite remarkable. With Alexandra London, Gerard Sety, Bernard le Coq, Corinne Bourdon, and Elsa Zylberstein (1992). In French with subtitles. (JR)