Filmes by Barbara Hammer

The onetime Chicago-based filmmaker will be here for a screening of seven of her films made during the 80s, presented in conjunction with Women in the Director’s Chair. Some of the half dozen of these films that I’ve seen are lyrical studies in motion whose subjects are usually either tourist attractions or tourists: Pools, Pond and Waterfall, Tourist, and Parisian Blinds–all made between 1980 and 1983. Others are more complex meditations: Optic Nerve (1985), on how and what Hammer’s grandmother, who’s in a nursing home, sees; and Endangered (1988), on the precarious situation of the independent, artisanal filmmaker. The most recent film to be shown, which I haven’t seen, is Still Point, completed last year, which will be receiving its Chicago premiere. Optic Nerve and Endangered, the most interesting of the films I saw, concentrate on the processes of seeing and abound in striking, strobelike effects, superimpositions, and diverse split-screen and jigsaw-puzzle like compositions. Endangered also features glimpses of endangered species from the bird and animal kingdoms. Both films have eloquently spare sound tracks composed by Helen Thorington. (Chicago Filmmakers, 1229 W. Belmont, Wednesday, February 28, 7:00, 281-8788)

Published on 23 Feb 1990 in Featured Texts, by jrosenbaum

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The Plot Against Harry

Shot in black and white in 1969, but neither completed nor shown until 1989, this delightful, offbeat comedy about a sad-eyed, small-time New York numbers racketeer named Harry Plotnick (Martin Priest) who has just emerged from prison after many years, was written and directed by Michael Roemer, whose only well-known previous feature was the skillful Nothing but a Man (1964), about the experiences of a black couple living in Alabama. Finding that life has passed him by, Harry gamely tries to buy his way into middle-class respectability, even though his wife despises him and he’s a total stranger to his kids. In the course of conducting business, he passes through a picaresque succession of locations and noisy events–bar mitzvah, fashion show, dog-training session, and an endless stream of parties–yet the movie’s pace is leisurely, the humor quiet and affectionate in striking contrast to the brassy world he moves through. Beautifully shot (by coproducer Robert M. Young, a director in his own right) and cast with a wonderful bunch of unknowns (who include Ben Lang, Maxine Woods, Henry Nemo, Jacques Taylor, Jean Leslie, Ellen Herbert, and Sandra Kazan), this is both a lovely piece of filmmaking and an exquisitely detailed portrait of a milieu and period, sealed as if in a time capsule. (Fine Arts)

Published on 16 Feb 1990 in Featured Texts, by jrosenbaum

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Art of Music Video: Vanguard Revisions

This last program in a four-part series is probably the most interesting and far ranging. It takes us all the way from an early film by Bruce Conner (Cosmic Ray, 1961) and an excerpt from Nam June Paik’s 1973 Global Groove to some fascinating recent explorations by Kit Fitzgerald and Paul Garrin (with Ryuichi Sakamoto), Bob Snyder (with his own music), and Carole Ann Klonarides and Michael Owen (with Christian Marclay). (Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Sunday, February 11, 7:15, 443-3737)

Published on 09 Feb 1990 in Featured Texts, by jrosenbaum

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My Left Foot

The remarkable Daniel Day-Lewis plays the remarkable Christy Brown, an Irishman born with a severe case of cerebral palsy who eventually taught himself to paint and write with his left foot, in a film adapted by director Jim Sheridan and Shane Connaughton from Brown’s autobiography. Far from milking this subject for conventional sentimentality, the filmmakers use it as the basis for an engaging and idiosyncratic character study. Lewis’s performance is necessarily a bit showy–one has to strain at times to understand all his dialogue because of the character’s contorted features–but he puts on a terrific drunk scene, and for all his character’s travails, the film as a whole winds up as surprisingly upbeat. With Brenda Fricker (also very fine) as Brown’s mother, Alison Whelan, Kirsten Sheridan, Declan Croghan, Fiona Shaw, and Cyril Cusack. (Esquire)

Published on 02 Feb 1990 in Featured Texts, by jrosenbaum

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