Baby Knows Best [LOOK WHO’S TALKING]

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Published on 24 Nov 1989 in Featured Texts, Featured Texts, by jrosenbaum

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The Long Weekend (o’Despair)

Shot for the astonishing sum of $5,000, Gregg Araki’s second feature is accurately described by its writer-director-producer-cinematographer-editor as “a minimalistic gay/bisexual postpunk antithesis to the smug complacency of regressive Hollywood tripe like The Big Chill.” A college reunion of sorts takes place when Rachel (Maureen Dondanville), a lesbian, and Sara (Nicole Dillenberg), a hetereosexual, decide to visit their gay friend Michael (Bretton Vail) in LA for a weekend; their new lovers (Andrea Beane and Marcus D’Amico) are in tow, and Michael’s former lover Alex (Lance Woods) happens to turn up as well. All three couples quarrel and gripe to one another about how bored and directionless they are, and there’s a certain amount of tentative breaking up, infidelity, and coming back together again, but basically very little happens. The characters chiefly talk, and Araki’s well-scripted and mainly well-synchronized dialogue essentially carries the movie. An authentic expression of the dead-end feeling of a generation, Araki’s film can be irritating in spots: the defeatist attitude toward politics (epitomized especially in the semiparodic treatment of Rachel’s girlfriend Leah) seems assumed rather than explored, and there are times when the overall existential angst seems as much a matter of fashion here as it was 25 years ago in Antonioni films. But the depictions of the warmth, confusions, and conflicts between Araki’s half dozen burned-out cases also command interest and respect. A presentation of the Chicago Lesbian and Gay International Film Festival. (Music Box, Friday, November 17, 11:00)

Published on 17 Nov 1989 in Featured Texts, by jrosenbaum

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Kung Fu Master!

Not a martial arts movie (the title refers to a video game) but a provocative French feature starring and based on a story by the talented English/French actress Jane Birkin, written and directed by Agnes Varda (Vagabond). Birkin plays a 40-year-old divorcee with two daughters who befriends, falls in love with, and eventually has a fleeting affair with a 14-year-old boy (Mathieu Demy, Varda’s son) who is also in love with her. The very matter-of-fact treatment that this taboo subject receives ties it in persuasively with the film’s comfortably domestic middle-class milieu and the surrounding cultural climate of France and England (in particular, the impact of AIDS). And to compound the personal (if not autobiographical) nature of the project, Birkin’s two daughters are played by her actual daughters (including The Little Thief’s Charlotte Gainsbourg). Neither salacious nor flippant, the film is the serious working-through of a fantasy of Birkin’s that shirks neither its implications nor its consequences. Varda’s serene and unrhetorical handling of such a loaded subject underlined with sympathy and understanding for all of the characters, and full of both wit and tenderness–is what gives this picture its charge (1988). (Fine Arts)

Published on 17 Nov 1989 in Featured Texts, by jrosenbaum

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Bangkok Bahrain

Amos Gitai’s documentary about workers in Thailand, with an extended side trip to Bahrain, features interviews with prostitutes, a former film censor who currently recruits workers, a company owner showing off his house, the manager of a luxury hotel, and others. A particularly strong aspect of Gitai’s informative, antitouristic style is his original approach to sound recording and sound mixing; his densely layered sound track nearly always encompasses parts of the surrounding environment that are not visible on screen, so that one’s perceptions of the various milieus being explored are constantly expanded beyond the borders of the frame (1984). (Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Sunday, November 19, 6:30, 443-3737)

Published on 17 Nov 1989 in Featured Texts, by jrosenbaum

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