Paradise Lost

A fascinating, revealing, and deeply disturbing–if highly imperfect–documentary feature by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, codirectors of the excellent Brother’s Keeper, about the trials and convictions resulting from the brutal murder and mutilation of three eight-year-old boys in West Memphis, Arkansas. Most of what we see persuades us that two teenage boys have been convicted of these crimes more because of their nonconformity within the community than from any hard evidence (the likeliest suspect, the stepfather of one of the victims, hasn’t even been charged). Unfortunately, the filmmakers refuse to acknowledge their own role in the proceedings, which makes for an incomplete version of the story. Adding to the confusion is the film’s popular assumption that seeing excerpts of a trial qualifies one to reach an independent verdict. Moreover, there are times when the intrusiveness and callow exploitativeness of TV reporters (one early on asks a bereaved mother whether she’s contemplating suicide) seem to be matched by some of the moves of the filmmakers: though it appears that one of the defendants is being railroaded in part because of his taste for heavy metal, the use of songs by Metallica behind much of the footage seems obscene rather than ironic. By the time the second trial’s verdict is read and the defendant’s mother, sister, and girlfriend are seen rushing into the ladies’ room, you half expect the filmmakers to follow them. Nevertheless, this picture is well worth seeing. Berlinger will be present to discuss his film at both evening screenings on Friday and Saturday. Music Box, Friday through Thursday, September 27 through October 3.

–Jonathan Rosenbaum

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): film still.

Published on 27 Sep 1996 in Featured Texts, by jrosenbaum

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Reflection in a Mirror

This exquisitely filmed 1992 experimental feature by Svetlana Proskurina, starring her husband Victor Proskurin and written by Andrei Chernykh, concerns a famous stage actor undergoing an identity crisis–a theme that may call to mind Bergman, though the mesmerizingly slow camera movements often recall Tarkovsky. Much of the film is erotic and lyrical, with a fair amount of nudity, and there’s an eclectic score with jazz elements by Vyacheslav Gaivaronsky. The unidiomatic and often confusing subtitles make this difficult to follow in spots, but the color images are so ravishing that you may not care. Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Sunday, September 22, 4:30, 443-3737.

–Jonathan Rosenbaum

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): film still.

Published on 20 Sep 1996 in Featured Texts, by jrosenbaum

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Krzysktof Kieslowski: I’m So-So

This hour-long 1995 Danish documentary by Krzysztof Wierzbicki, made shortly before Krzysztof Kieslowski’s untimely death, feels incomplete when it comes to fleshing out every important stage of writer-director Kieslowski’s career with clips, but as an extended interview giving us some notion of why he retired and what his state of mind was like in his last days it’s priceless. Kieslowski’s mordant wit is trained on a good many subjects, including the behavior of Americans, and we learn that the script he was working on when he died was for a project he had no intention of directing. On the same program at the Polish Film Festival are two short films I haven’t seen–Michal J. Dudziewicz’s The Cinema Workers Come to Light out of the Dream Factory (1995), a documentary about half a century of Polish filmmaking, and Mariusz Malec’s half-hour The Quiet Harbor, which will be shown without English subtitles. Gateway, 5216 W. Lawrence, Saturday, September 21, 4:00, and Wednesday, September 25, 8:00, 486-9612.

–Jonathan Rosenbaum

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): film still.

Published on 20 Sep 1996 in Featured Texts, by jrosenbaum

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Surviving Picasso

One more chapter in the tasteful, intelligent anticinema of director James Ivory, screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, and producer Ismail Merchant (teamed here with David L. Wolper), as well as another celebrity impersonation by Anthony Hopkins. These tried-and-true strains converge in an adaptation of Arianna Huffington’s Picasso: Creator and Destroyer; it’s basically a domestic biopic about how the philandering artist treatedand mainly exploitedhis many mistresses. Most (but not all) of the continental characters, including Picasso and Matisse (a Joss Ackland cameo), are inexplicably furnished with English accents. Not a movie that needs to exist, but it passes the time, and at least Hopkins manages to look like Picasso at odd moments. With Natascha McElhone, Julianne Moore, Peter Eyre, Jane Lapotaire, Joseph Maher, Bob Peck, Diane Venora, and Joan Plowright. (JR)

Published on 16 Sep 1996 in Featured Texts, by admin

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