Women’s Story

Peng Xiaolian’s aptly titled feminist feature from the People’s Republic of China (1988) follows the adventures of three peasant women who leave their oppressive village to sell wool in Beijing and a provincial city before returning to their ambiguous fates in the village. Peng sticks exclusively to the viewpoints of her three heroines, revealing herself to be a remarkable director of actors, and her incisive feeling for the options of her characters–both as women and as peasants–gives this melodrama a cumulative force and authority. (Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Sunday, November 17, 6:00, 443-3737)

Published on 15 Nov 1991 in Featured Texts, by jrosenbaum

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Larks on a String

Made in 1969, only three years after his Oscar-winning Closely Watched Trains, Jiri Menzel’s lovely, sensual Czech satire waited 21 years to pass the censors, then went on to win the top prize at the Berlin film festival. Cowritten by Menzel and Bohumil Hrabal from a collection of Hrabal’s stories, the comic tale, set in the early 50s, centers on a group of “bourgeois dissidents”–including a philosophy professor, a librarian who promoted Western literature, a Seventh-Day Adventist cook (Vaclav Neckar), a saxophonist, and a public prosecutor-assigned to work on a scrap heap in the town of Kladno. Male and female political prisoners work in adjacent yards, and the flirtations between the two groups comprise much of the action of this surprisingly cheerful picture, which treats party officials and guards as hapless victims of the system along with the prisoners. The bureaucratic absurdities reach a sort of climax when the cook falls in love with a female prisoner (Jitka Zelenohorska): they wind up getting married, but the bride’s grandmother has to serve as her proxy. (Music Box, Friday through Thursday, November 15 through 21)

Published on 15 Nov 1991 in Featured Texts, by jrosenbaum

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Short Films

John Greyson’s hilarious and wonderful The Making of “Monsters” from Canada is an audacious pseudodocumentary–a short about the making of a musical about a gay-bashing incident that results in murder. If that sounds offbeat, consider that the two creative minds behind the musical are George Lukas (identified as the Marxist literary critic who directed American Graffiti and Star Wars) and Bertolt Brecht (played by a catfish in a tank). If the brilliance doesn’t quite sustain itself over half an hour, there are still some pretty far-out musical numbers. Equally worth seeing are four shorts by Gus Van Sant (My Own Private Idaho): The Discipline of DE (1978), a very literal and funny adaptation of a William S. Burroughs text that deftly mixes essay and fiction, reminiscent of Jane Campion’s Passionless Moments; My Friend (1983) and My New Friend (1985), two three-minute diary entries about short-lived pickups; and the recent Thanksgiving Prayer, starring Burroughs, which I haven’t seen but which sounds fabulous. As if this weren’t enough, the program also includes Christopher Newby’s strikingly shot English short Relax (1990), David Weissman’s lightweight Complaints, Garth Maxwell’s Red Delicious from New Zealand, and Cathy Joritz’s German “scratch-animation” Give AIDS the Freeze. Running as part of the Chicago Lesbian & Gay International Film Festival. (Music Box, Sunday, November 10, 5:15)

Published on 08 Nov 1991 in Featured Texts, by jrosenbaum

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