Looking for America [UNCOMMON SENSES]

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http://www.jonathanrosenbaum.net/1988/08/looking-for-america/

Published on 26 Aug 1988 in Featured Texts, Featured Texts, by jrosenbaum

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Cane Toads: An Unnatural History/Films by Jane Campion

One hundred and two cane toads were brought into Queensland, Australia, in 1935 with the hope that they would get rid of sugar-cane grubs. The toads quickly overran the countryside, eating everything except cane grubs. In this documentary featurette, filmmaker Mark Lewis extracts as much grim humor as possible from this problem–which persists–with all its grotesque ramifications. (The strange mating habits of cane toads are described in detail; their poison has not only caused ecological disaster in the area, but also has served as an illegal hallucinogenic drug; many children treat the toads as pets; and so on.) On the same program, and much more interesting as filmmaking, are three highly original independent shorts by New Zealand filmmaker Jane Campion, all of them made while she was attending the Australian Film and Television School: Peel (1981) and A Girl’s Own Story (1984) are about family quarrels and transgressions; the remarkable Passionless Moments (1984), made with Gerard Lee, is a series of fictional miniessays that defy description. All three Campion films are strikingly photographed and edited, and comprise the most interesting Australian independent work that I’ve seen. (Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Saturday, August 20, 6:00 and 8:00, and Sunday, August 21, 4:00 and 6:00, 443-3737)

Published on 19 Aug 1988 in Featured Texts, by jrosenbaum

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Stealing Home

An aging ball player (Mark Harmon) comes home to his New Jersey town after a rebellious childhood friend (Jodie Foster) commits suicide and entrusts him in her will with the disposition of her ashes; after a long period of living in obscurity, he begins to relive memories of his youth. What this uneven nostalgia piece mainly has going for it is sincerity; alternately mawkish and touching, it has plenty of feeling, but only intermittently does it come up with a very clear sense of what to do with it. Written and directed by the team of Steven Kampmann and Will Aldis; with Harold Ramis, Jonathan Silverman, Blair Brown, William McNamara, and John Shea. (JR)

Published on 01 Aug 1988 in Featured Texts, by admin

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A Hungarian Fairy Tale

Gyula Gazdag’s 1986 Hungarian feature follows the adventures of Andris (David Vermes), who is searching for his father, and Antal (Frantisek Husak), a local clerk who once persuaded Andris’s mother to assign her son an imaginary father in order to acquire a birth certificate. The film starts out as a satire about Hungarian bureaucracy and gets progressively stranger and more unpredictable as it proceeds, finally winding up as a wide-eyed fantasy with provocative allegorical overtones about Hungarian identity. Elemer Ragalyi’s superb black-and-white cinematography and Gazdag’s very personal handling of editing and mood somehow hold it all together. With Maria Varga and Eszter Csakanyi. (JR)

Published on 01 Aug 1988 in Featured Texts, by admin

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