Writer-director Andre Techine appears to be on a roll; after the revelations of My Favorite Season (1993) and Wild Reeds, here’s a picture that’s in some ways even more exciting and serious. Jumping between characters in order to see the same events from different vantage points, as in a Faulkner novel, the story involves a family of thieves based in the French Alps. The plot centers on an abortive car heist, but the thriller elements are secondary to the explorations of character. The younger brother (Daniel Auteuil), in rebellion against both his older brother (Didier Bezace) and his father, has become a cop in Lyons; there he gets sexually involved with the troubled sister (Laurence Cote) of a thief (Benoit Magimel) in league with his brother. To complicate matters further, the sister is a former mistress of the older brother and is currently also involved with a philosophy teacher (Catherine Deneuve). Auteuil and Deneuve costarred as brother and sister in My Favorite Season, and it’s remarkable how different they are here. Cote, best known in this country for her work with Rivette (The Gang of Four, Up Down Fragile) and Godard (Nouvelle vague), is equally sensational. An exquisite, haunting movie for grown-ups about love and family ties. Gilles Taurand, Michel Alexandre, and Pascal Bonitzer all collaborated with Techine on the powerful script. Music Box, Wednesday and Thursday, December 25 and 26.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): film still.
I walked out halfway through Alan Parker’s bombastic 1996 version of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1978 musical about Argentina’s national heroine Eva Peroncoscripted by Oliver Stone, who also teamed up with Parker on the lurid fantasies of Midnight Express. I figured if I stayed longer I’d only become angrier, which wouldn’t do anybody any good. In what I saw, Madonna in the title role tries bravely not to buckle under the weight of Stone and Parker’s sense of Stalinist monumentality and fails honorably, while the Lloyd Webber music goes on being nonmusical. Antonio Banderas plays a character serving as chorus and emcee, Jonathan Pryce is the heroine’s totalitarian husband, and Jimmy Nail is on hand as the tango-singer lover who enabled her to move to Buenos Aires. Parker’s Argentina between the 30s and 50s bears a close resemblance to his Midnight Express Turkey and his Mississippi Burning Mississippi. I’ve rarely felt so liberated as I did when I escaped from this torture engine, and I’m eagerly waiting for all the critics who called Nixon Shakespearean to explain why this equally inflated companion piece is Brechtian. (JR)
John Travolta plays an angel who smokes, guzzles beer, romances women, and (no doubt because it’s Travolta) dances. Two washed-up reporters from a Chicago-based tabloid (William Hurt and Robert Pastorelli) are sent off to Iowa by their boss (Bob Hoskins) to write a story about him with the help of a dog trainer posing as an angel expert (Andie MacDowell). Before this turns to total mush, it’s a quirky, fitfully effective fantasy (1996) periodically enlivened by the cast. Producer-director-cowriter Nora Ephron is still learning how to make moviesafter proving in Sleepless in Seattle that she could hit pay dirt without knowingbut by now she’s at least able to slide her players over the weak parts of her scripts. Her cowriters this time around are her sister Delia, Pete Dexter, and Jim Quinlan. (JR)
Helen Mirren and Fionnula Flanagan play two of the 21 mothers of IRA prisoners who went on a hunger strike against Margaret Thatcher’s government in 1981. Effective and well acted, this 1996 British feature was directed by Terry George (Hotel Rwanda), who collaborated on the script with Jim Sheridan (In America). Most of the characters are fictional, but the film is nevertheless stirring as agitprop. With Aidan Gillen, David O’Hara, John Lynch, Tom Hollander, and Tim Woodward. R, 112 min. (JR)