Posted inArts & Culture

Landscape Suicide

A landscapist among the structuralists, American independent James Benning returns to the regional emphases of his early films (his brilliant 1976 11 x 14 turned midwestern phenomenology into a maze of clockwork motifs) with this double murder portrait set to geographic accompaniment. Benning applies a formal mirror to his murderer pair–a disaffected California teenager and […]

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French Cancan

Jean Renoir’s 1955 musical, back in a newly struck Technicolor print that incorporates ten minutes of previously unseen footage. It’s the easiest to like of Renoir’s late films, full of color, movement, and romance, though it’s one of the hardest to appreciate: the bright, frivolous surface seems to mask the deepest currents of Renoir’s art. […]

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Police

When Andrew Sarris recently suggested that watching Gerard Depardieu read the telephone directory would be worth the price of admission, somebody riposted that Maurice Pialat’s Police was a good chance to test out the theory. Well, it is and it isn’t–the longueurs are there, but to insist on them too strongly is to miss the […]

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Andrew Calhoun

Fifteen years after Goodman, Prine, and the whole rich scene that nurtured them peaked, the very notion of folk music is anathema to most, and a genuine mystery even to those who have been saddled with the designation. And yet, from time to time there arises from the folk-ooze of musical ambivalence and contradiction a […]

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John Cale With Chris Spedding

What a pair! John Cale and Chris Spedding have worked together before, and one of the things they have in common is that they’ve both built their reputations largely on collaboration with others. One of rock’s most chillingly idiosyncratic performers, singer/producer/songwriter/electric violist Cale has worked with species as disparate as Lou Reed, LaMonte Young, Phil […]

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The Blue Mountains

Soviet Georgian filmmaker Eldar Shengelaya’s sharp antibureaucratic satire, about a young author whose efforts to get a manuscript read at a government publishing house are stymied by official procrastination and indifference. The deft carousel styling (the author makes the same round of offices month after month, always encountering the same Kafkaesque excuses) owes a lot […]

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Platoon

Oliver Stone’s fictionalized memoir of the Vietnam War attempts to re-create, as well as any movie can, the physical and psychological realities of combat experience–the blood and guts and traumatized emotions splayed out like freshly exploded corpses in a mine field. Stone does a good job of it, though the project isn’t as unique as […]

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The Crazy Family

An ideally symmetrical Japanese family–dad, mom, junior, and sis–moves into a new suburban home, where rising middle-class expectations (and gramps barging in for an open-ended stay) cause everything to deconstruct explosively. Sogo Ishii’s lunatic black comedy seems less concerned with actual family dynamics than with turning its sitcom household into an open arena of competing […]

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The Emerald Forest

Powers Boothe as an American engineer who spends ten years looking for his son kidnapped by a tribe of Amazon Indians. John Boorman’s film was conventionally faulted for its lack of fidelity to ethnographic realism, but it seems pretty clear that Boorman was more interested in mythological resonances than scientific exactitude. There’s a Manichaean wrangle […]

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Die Fledermaus

Johann Strauss’s attempt to out-Mozart Mozart may not be the sublime, wise treatise on love he intended, but it is now appreciated all over the world as an elegant, tasteful romp about marital indiscretion among the Viennese gentry. And it has come to epitomize for us the gilded-age Vienna, a time and place nostalgically evoked […]

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Lysistrata 2411 AD

The Center Theater’s bawdy, funk-futuristic version of Aristophanes’ classic comedy–written in 411 BC, now set in 2411 AD–has been extended for an additional three weeks. Though the prolonged run necessitates the replacement of several cast members, the changes shouldn’t affect the production’s strongest elements: Donald Coates’s witty pop-rock score (marred only by the fact that […]

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Otis Rush

West-side blues is characterized by an aggressive guitar attack punctuated by busy, complex chording between the lead phrases and propelled by a strongly driving rhythm section of bass and drums. Otis Rush took this raw, elemental sound and brought it to new heights in the late 50s with classics like “Double Trouble,” “Groaning the Blues,” […]