As we go to press, I’ve seen about a third of the 30-odd programs being shown by the Chicago International Film Festival over its final weekend (not counting Hugo winners and audience choices), only three of which I’d place in the category of must-see: Mike Leigh’s Secrets and Lies, showing Sunday at Pipers Alley; Alex van Warmerdam’s The Dress, Saturday at the Three Penny and Hou Hsiao-hsien’s Goodbye South, Goodbye, Saturday at the Music Box. The latter two movies haven’t been picked up, and even if they get distributors chances are they won’t reappear for another year.
I can add a few less urgent recommendations. William Wyler’s Roman Holiday (1953) was, oddly enough, a favorite film of Carl Dreyer; when the Danish government paid tribute to its greatest filmmaker by inviting him to program an art cinema in Copenhagen, he gave this black and white comedy, which won Audrey Hepburn an Oscar, the longest run. Keith Gordon’s Mother Night (also scheduled to open soon) is a flawed rendering of one of Kurt Vonnegut’s better early novels, but for my money better than most Merchant-Ivory adaptations, especially during its first half.
Thief and Heat (1995) are both effective Michael Mann thrillers–especially Thief, which is said to be showing in a newly restored “director’s cut”–and Wyler’s Funny Girl (1968), for all its schmaltz, has the undeniable benefit of Barbra Streisand in her early prime. Helicopter String Quartet is a fairly absorbing documentation of the execution of an eccentric work by composer Karlheinz Stockhausen. Nick Cassavetes’s Unhook the Stars, scheduled to open soon, is merely OK, and Wyler’s The Collector (1965) and Friendly Persuasion (1956), unless my memory deceives me, are marginally less than OK. The Funeral (likely to open commercially at some point) shows Abel Ferrara at his least inspired and most formulaic in following familiar actors through a Depression-era gangster story.
The festival continues through Sunday, October 20, with screenings at the Music Box, 3733 N. Southport; Pipers Alley, Wells at North; and the Three Penny, 2424 N. Lincoln. Tickets can be bought at the festival store at Pipers Alley and at theater box offices an hour before show time; they’re also available (with a service charge) by phone at 644-3456 or by fax at 943-6640. General admission to most programs is $9, $7.50 for Cinema/Chicago members. Discount passes are also available.
For more information call 644-3456.
This first feature has been described as school of Cassavetes, because it stars Gena Rowlands and the filmmaker in question is John Cassavetes’s son Nick. But the best that can be said for this fair-to-middling soap opera about a widow (Rowlands) getting a second lease on life is that, apart from being actor-oriented, it isn’t a copy of John Cassavetes’s work at all. It’s something much more conventional and sentimentaldecent enough, I suppose, on its own terms, but not the radical rethinking of art and human personality one associates with Cassavetes pere. With Marisa Tomei, Gerard Depardieu (even hammier than usual), and Jake Lloyd; Helen Caldwell collaborated on the script. (JR)
Reviewers who called this sincere if highly familiar look at aimless lives in Brooklyn (1996, 94 min.)a first feature written, directed by, and starring Steve Buscemisuperior to John Cassavetes, whom Buscemi has described as a major influence, have done a radical disservice to the modest virtues of this picture, as well as misconstrued Cassavetes’s own multifaceted achievement (which had more to do with close scripting than most people imagine). The title refers to a bar where most of the characters hang out, and though the film occasionally conveys some of the sweetness of early Cassavetes it has none of the mystery: these characters are enjoyable types but not a lot more. Certainly the cast has fun: Anthony LaPaglia, Elizabeth Bracco, Mark Boone Jr., Chloe Sevigny, Daniel Baldwin, and Carol Kane. (JR)