A 21-year friendship between a lifer (Morgan Freeman) and a New England banker convicted of murder (Tim Robbins) is the focus of this gripping 1994 prison drama, capably directed and adapted by Frank Darabont from Stephen King’s short novel Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption. A passing reference to The Count of Monte Cristo offers a partial clue to what makes this movie compelling: though its events occur between the late 40s and late 60s, the film’s 19th-century storytelling mode shows how lives, personalities, and personal agendas develop over years, and how various individuals cope with the dynamics of prison life and totalitarian systems in general. Robbins and Freeman both shine; with Bob Gunton, William Sadler, Clancy Brown, Gil Bellows, and James Whitmore. R, 142 min. (JR)
In an effort to save their marriage, a couple (Meryl Streep and David Strathairn) leave with their son on a white-water raft trip and encounter trouble from a pair of strangers (Kevin Bacon and John C. Reilly). Curtis Hanson (The Hand That Rocks the Cradle) directed this 1994 thriller effectively from a fairly routine script by Denis O’Neill; what really makes this movie worth seeing are the stunning Oregon and Montana locations (filmed in ‘Scope), as well as Streep’s sexy pluck in playing the most capable and resourceful character around. (JR)
A rather unfunny pseudodocumentary in the manner of This is Spinal Tap, Bob Roberts, and Fear of a Black Hat about two American independents setting out to make a big-budget biblical spectacular. If you haven’t seen as many movies of this ilk as I have, it’s possible you might be amused. Directed by Arthur Borman from a script he wrote with Chicagoan Mark Borman, Gregory S. Malins, and Michael Curtis; with Michael Riley and Stephen Rappaport, as well as cameos by Lou Ferrigno, Eve Plumb, and, in the part of Moses, Soupy Sales. (JR)
American TV watchers, eat your hearts out! It isn’t always easy to trace the connections in these selections from “Ten to Eleven”–a series of short, experimental “essay” films made for German television by the remarkable German filmmaker Alexander Kluge–but they’re the liveliest and most imaginative European TV shows I’ve seen since those of Ruiz and Godard. Densely constructed out of a very diverse selection of archival materials, which are manipulated (electronically and otherwise) in a number of unexpected ways, these historical meditations often suggest Max Ernst collages using the cultural flotsam of the last 100 years. I’ve seen four of the programs: Why Are You Crying, Antonio? relates fascism, opera, and domesticity; Antiques & Advertising historicizes ads in a number of novel ways; Madame Butterfly Waits offers a compressed history of opera and its kitschy pop-culture successors; and the self-explanatory The Eiffel Tower, King Kong, and the White Women makes use of comics, 1890s movies, a quote from Heidegger, and multiple images of the famous ape and tower. The first part of this program features Madame Butterfly Waits, The Eiffel Tower, King Kong, and the White Women, Antiques & Advertising, and The African Lady, or Love With a Fatal Outcome; the second includes Blue Hour Tango Time, Why Are You Crying, Antonio?, Changing Time (Quickly), and Japanclips. To be shown on video. Facets Multimedia Center, 1517 W. Fullerton, part one: Friday and Saturday, September 16 and 17, 7:00, and Sunday, September 18, 5:30; part two: Friday and Saturday, September 16 and 17, 8:45, and Sunday, September 18, 7:15; 281-4114.