Rouch in Reverse

Though not entirely satisfying, Manthia Diawara’s 1995 video documentary about the great innovative French anthropological filmmaker Jean Rouch–which intermittently attempts to practice a “reverse anthropology” on Rouch himself–is an invaluable introduction to one of the greatest living filmmakers. Diawara, a critic and film professor at New York University who hails from Mali, has known Rouch for years and struggles admirably to balance the filmmaker’s unquestionable achievements (including his role as a precursor of and guru to the French New Wave) with his paternalism toward Africans–an attitude that was still progressive 20, 30, and 40 years ago, when most of Rouch’s masterpieces were made, but is harder to rationalize today. Diawara fails to resolve the conflict, but at least he articulates it as honestly as possible. On the same program–which will be introduced by Chicago documentary filmmaker Judy Hoffman, who has worked with Rouch–is a rare early short film by Rouch, In the Land of the Black Magi (1947), codirected by Pierre Ponty and Jean Sauvy. And if you want to see what Rouch in his prime can do as a filmmaker, check out his Jaguar (1967) at Chicago Filmmakers next Friday, same time, same place. Kino-Eye Cinema at Chicago Filmmakers, Friday, January 31, 8:00, 773-384-5533.

–Jonathan Rosenbaum

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

Published on 31 Jan 1997 in Featured Texts, by jrosenbaum

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A Single Girl

Just as she’s about to start a job with room service at a luxury hotel in Paris, a young woman (Virginie Ledoyen) tells her boyfriend that she’s pregnant and wants to keep their child. They quarrel but arrange to meet an hour later, and the film then follows her first hour at work in real time. This segment of Benoit Jacquot’s compelling 1995 feature, written with Jerome Beaujour, is a stunning demonstration of moral and existential suspense in relation to duration, much like Agnes Varda’s 1962 Cleo From 5 to 7. Later the excitement dissipates somewhat, and when the film abandons real time to make room for an epilogue it becomes ordinary. But until then it’s an essential piece of filmmaking–not simply as a stylistic exercise but as a fascinating look at a hotel in operation. Music Box, Friday through Thursday, January 24 through 30.

–Jonathan Rosenbaum

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

Published on 24 Jan 1997 in Featured Texts, by jrosenbaum

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Zeus And Roxanne

The title characters are a dog and a dolphin that become friends; their respective keepers, Steve Guttenberg and Kathleen Quinlan, both single parents, become friends too. Written by Tom Benedek, this family entertainment was directed by George Millersometimes known as George Miller the Bad (Robinson Crusoe, The Man From Snowy River) to distinguish him from George Miller the Good (the director of Lorenzo’s Oil and producer of Babe). (JR)

Published on 21 Jan 1997 in Featured Texts, by admin

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Hotel De Love

A broad, hit-and-miss Australian youth comedy, set in the title hotel in Niagara Smalls. Some of it looks like a TV commercial, and the characters’ motivations could have been generated by a computer, but the castRay Barrett, Julia Blake, Simon Bossell, Saffron Burrows, Pippa Grandison, and Aden Youngis attractive and energetic. Written and directed by Craig Rosenberg. (JR)

Published on 21 Jan 1997 in Featured Texts, by admin

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