This is the Chicago premiere of a first-rate, 167-minute Canadian documentary by Mark Achbar and Peter Wintonick about the brilliant linguist and radical political commentator Noam Chomsky, probably the best living critic of American foreign policy as viewed through the media. He’s so articulate and intelligent that this extended look at his thought remains compulsively watchable throughout, and the filmmakers pull off the unlikely feat of making a film about him genuinely humorous in spots (1992). (Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Saturday, February 20, 3:00, and Sunday, February 21, 6:00, 443-3737)
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Renzo.
This brilliant hour-long video by independent filmmaker Mark Rappaport (The Scenic Route) is in effect a subversive piece of film criticism that departs from the fictional conceit of Hudson himself (represented through clips from his films and by actor Eric Farr) speaking from beyond the grave about his homosexuality and what this did or didn’t have to do with his countless heterosexual screen roles. Part of what emerges, to hilarious effect, is the extraordinary amount of male cruising and number of barbed allusions to Hudson’s gayness that his movies of the 50s and 60s contain; what also emerges is the sexual ideology of the period. Though much of this essential work is extremely funny, it is also very much about death in relation to movies (1992). (Music Box, Friday and Saturday, February 12 and 13, midnight)
Though not a success, this independent black-and-white drama about the friendship between a down-and-out but brilliant jazz musician loosely based on Charlie Parker (Dick Gregory in his first film appearance) and a onetime professor (Don Murray) is an unusual and thoughtful effort. Adapted from John Williams’s novel Night Song by director Herbert Danska and Lewis Jacobs, with a good secondary cast, including Diane Varsi and Robert Hooks (1967). (JR)
A festival favorite in 1992, this flamboyant Australian crowd pleaser and first feature by Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge) struck me then as one of the more horrific and unpleasant movies I’d seen in quite some timea glib, brassy, and strident Rocky-style comedy about a 21-year-old ballroom champion who teams up with a flamenco dancer. With Paul Mercurio, Tara Morice, Bill Hunter, Pat Thomson, and lots of show-offy ballroom dancing. R, 94 min. (JR)