Next of Kin

The first feature (1985) of Canadian writer-director Atom Egoyan (Family Viewing, Speaking Parts) is probably his least-known work. But thanks to its dynamic camera style and its bizarre premise, it is in many ways his most immediately engaging. In the course of undergoing family therapy with his parents, a young Canadian WASP (Patrick Tierney) comes across a video of an Armenian family (Berge Fazlian, Sirvart Fazlian, and Egoyan regular Arsinee Khanjian) who put their son up for adoption 20 years ago. Flying to the city where this family lives, the hero poses as the missing son and becomes much better integrated in their family than he is in his own. As in Egoyan’s subsequent films, video not only has an important function in the plot but is also employed metaphorically. Egoyan’s use of realistic details often proves deceptive; just as we’ve settled into accepting his plot on a literal level, he starts unhinging our expectations with ambiguities and details that don’t fit comfortably within a realistic scenario. (One particular ambiguity that is never resolved is the young man’s relationship with his “sister.”) The result is a very impressive debut, beautifully acted by all the leads and engaging and provocative in its treatment of the differences (as well as the similarities) between role-playing and pretending. (Chicago Filmmakers, 1229 W. Belmont, Friday and Saturday, February 22 and 23, 8:00, 281-8788)

Published on 22 Feb 1991 in Featured Texts, by jrosenbaum

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Published on 15 Feb 1991 in Featured Texts, Featured Texts, by jrosenbaum

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Lines of Fire

At the end of a day when more than 1,000 allied bombing missions had been carried out against Iraq and Kuwait, ABC’s Ted Koppel said, “Since that Scud missile hit Tel Aviv earlier today, it has been a quiet night in the Middle East.” A comparable obliviousness to the fate of nonwhites led to the U.S. delivery of airplanes and 2,4-D herbicide to Burma’s brutally repressive, totalitarian military regime–ostensibly to be used to wipe out opium fields. In fact, the gifts were also used against students and ethnic rebels of the National Democratic Front; food crops, cattle, people, and water supplies were sprayed in an effort to quell the civil war that has been raging in Burma for almost 40 years. The complexity of a situation in which one of the most prominent rebels, commanding about 12,000 troops in his fight for the independence of the Shan state, is also an opium warlord wasn’t lost on Brian Beker, the producer, director, and narrator of this fine hour-long documentary, filmed at great risk in 1989. The film also offers videotape coverage of the 1988 uprising, when around 15,000 civilians were slaughtered by government troops. As an introduction to some of the intricacies of a revolution in the largest country in Southeast Asia–and evidence of what the “noble intentions” of the U.S. can entail–this is essential viewing (1990). On the same program, Cliff Roth’s short spoof, The Reagans Speak Out on Drugs (1988). (Chicago Filmmakers, 1229 W. Belmont, Friday, February 15, 8:00, 281-8788)

Published on 15 Feb 1991 in Featured Texts, by jrosenbaum

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Mr. & Mrs. Bridge

I’m not much of a James Ivory fan, but this adaptation of Evan S. Connell’s novels Mrs. Bridge (1959) and Mr. Bridge (1969) deserves to be seen and cherished for at least a couple of reasons: first for Joanne Woodward’s exquisitely multilayered and nuanced performance as India Bridge, a frustrated, well-to-do WASP Kansas City housewife and mother during the 30s and 40s; and second for screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala’s retention of much of the episodic, short-chapter form of the original. It’s true that she and Ivory have toned down many of the books’ darker aspects, but as critic Georgia Brown has suggested, Woodward’s humanization of her character actually improves on the original. Connell’s imagination and compassion regarding this character have their limits, and Woodward triumphantly exceeds them. There are other fine performances as well from Paul Newman (as uptight Mr. Bridge), Blythe Danner (as India’s troubled best friend), Simon Callow, and Austin Pendleton. If the Bridges’ three children are realized less acutely than their parents, this period portraiture shows nonetheless a great deal of taste and intelligence. With Kyra Sedgwick and Robert Sean Leonard. (Fine Arts)

Published on 08 Feb 1991 in Featured Texts, by jrosenbaum

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Sleeping With The Enemy

An abused wife (Pretty Woman’s Julia Roberts) escapes from her psychopathic investment-counselor husband (Patrick Bergin) by faking her death, changing her name, and moving from Cape Cod to a university town in Iowa, only to find that he’s still hot on her trail. Although it’s directed by the at times estimable Joseph Ruben (The Stepfather), who does what he can with the script, the script itselfcredited to Ronald Bass, and adapted from Nancy Price’s novelis a tissue of so many stupid and implausible contrivances that the only possible way of enjoying it is by taking your brain out to lunch. It’s the sort of movie where all of the characters and plot moves (if one wants to call them that) are tailored to the thriller mechanics and have no existence apart from their crude functionality. Kevin Anderson costars as a young drama teacher who provides the alternative love interest. (JR)

Published on 01 Feb 1991 in Featured Texts, by admin

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