Though it wasn’t terribly well received when it first appeared, Luchino Visconti’s last film (1979) strikes me as arguably the greatest of his late works apart from The Leoparda withering autocritique of masculine vanity and self-delusion, adapted from a novel by Gabriele D’Annunzio, focusing on a well-to-do intellectual (Giancarlo Giannini) at the turn of the century struggling to justify his sexual double standards and his libertarian philosophy regarding his wife (Laura Antonelli) and his mistress (Jennifer O’Neill). Opulently mounted, dramatically understated, and keenly felt, this is a haunting testament, as well as one of Visconti’s most erotic pictures. Incidentally, the elderly hand seen on-screen during the opening credits is Visconti’s own. In Italian with subtitles. 125 min. (JR)
The best Algerian film I’ve seen, Merzak Allouache’s feature contains one of the clearest and most persuasive depictions of the recent rise of Islamic fundamentalism. Shot in 1993 and completed in 1994, it offers an exciting, comprehensive cross section of contemporary urban Algerian life, with particular emphasis on the youth culture. The plot focuses on what happens after a young baker trashes a loudspeaker that’s blaring propaganda from the roof of his apartment house. With Nadia Kaci, Mohamed Ourdache, Hassan Abou, and Nadia Samir. Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Friday and Saturday, June 9 and 10, 8:00, 443-3737.
A striking, ambitious, and densely realized French feature (1993) in black and white by Yolande Zauberman, also known as Me Ivan, You Abraham, that re-creates life in a Jewish shtetl in eastern Poland during the 30s. A 9-year-old Jewish boy and a 13-year-old Christian boy decide to run away together, and the younger boy’s older sister and her communist boyfriend go looking for them. The dialogue is in Yiddish, Polish, and a Gypsy dialect, and the secondary cast includes some well-known Russian actors and Polish actor Daniel Olbryschki. (JR)