Daily Archives: November 20, 2023

Fellini’s Casanova

From the March 1, 1993 Chicago Reader. — J.R.


What the world wanted from Fellini’s epic account of the famous 18th-century lover (Donald Sutherland) was hardly the dark, disturbingly jaundiced, alienated view of eroticism offered here (1976). But as one of the late flowerings of the director’s claustrophobic studio style at its most deliberately artificial, this is a memorable work, helped along by Nino Rota’s music and Danilo Donati’s Oscar-winning costumes. With Tina Aumont, Cicely Browne, John Karlsen, Carmen Scarpitta, and Clara Algranti. (JR)


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Body Of Evidence

From the Chicago Reader (January 1, 1993). — J.R.


Although I have no facts to support my impression, this erotic courtroom thriller looks as if it grew out of Madonna seeing Basic Instinct and saying, I wanna do one of those. Unfortunately, whatever the limitations of the earlier film, you can’t really do one of those without narrative punch and sweep, which director Uli Edel (Last Exit to Brooklyn) doesn’t manage to muster. While he may be marginally better at directing kinky sex scenes than Instinct‘s Paul Verhoeven, he’s stuck with a fairly ho-hum script by Brad Mirman — millionaire dies of heart failure after sex with his dominatrix girlfriend, who’s charged with murder after inheriting most of his fortune — as well as a performance by Madonna herself that tends to be awkward and unactorly whenever she has to deliver more than a couple of lines at a time. One’s attention is held but not exactly galvanized, even with the combined efforts of Willem Dafoe (the dominatrix’s defense lawyer), Joe Mantegna (the DA), Lillian Lehman (a black woman judge), Anne Archer, and Julianne Moore, not to mention Jurgen Prochnow and Frank Langella in smaller and slimier parts. Read more

The Great Divide [FROM THE OTHER SIDE]

From the Chicago Reader (May 16, 2003). — J.R.

From the Other Side **** (Masterpiece)

Directed by Chantal Akerman.

Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost  to me.

I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

— from “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus, quoted on a plaque at the Statue of Liberty

More than 25 years ago, when I was living in a beachside bungalow in a suburb of San Diego, I eventually realized that the bungalow across the alley was a halfway house for Mexicans who’d just made it across the border. I had to figure this out on my own because none of my neighbors ever even alluded to the place or what it was. The constant arrival and departure of new faces was perfectly obvious yet completely unacknowledged—in fact, everything in the surrounding Elysian landscape seemed to encourage one not to observe it. The halfway house was there but not there, like the Mexican ghettos in other parts of suburban San Diego — too decorous to prompt a second look. If people needed to go there in search of cheap labor, they concentrated on what they were looking for. Read more