The Picture of Dorian Gray

The underrated Albert Lewin (Pandora and the Flying Dutchman, The Moon and Sixpence), a sort of Val Lewton who had the run of the MGM back lot, adapted Oscar Wilde’s novel and directed his own script in a skillfully somber and haunting version of the metaphysical fable about a man whose painting ages and records his moral corruption while he retains his youthful appearance. With Hurd Hatfield memorably playing the title part, the 1945 film also includes juicy performances by George Sanders, Angela Lansbury, and Donna Reed. Deeper and creepier (that is to say, better) than anything turned out by Merchant-Ivory, this is both very Hollywood and very serious in a manner calculated to confound the “Hey, it’s only a movie!” crowd. This screening of a 35-millimeter print is tied to the Art Institute’s retrospective of painter Ivan Albright–who executed the extraordinary portrait of Dorian Gray’s rotting corruption, which appears in the black-and-white film as one of its only color shots (hey, it’s only a painting!)–and will be graced by a personal appearance by Hatfield, who’ll discuss both the movie and painting, and hopefully the novel as well. Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Saturday, March 1, 8:00, 312-443-3737.

–Jonathan Rosenbaum

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

Published on 28 Feb 1997 in Featured Texts, by jrosenbaum

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Apart from a few wisecracks Eddie Murphy plays it straight, as a hostage negotiator working for the San Francisco police force in a loud and often stupid action thriller in which director Thomas Carter (Swing Kids) has every screaming psycho killer and every hysterical hostage behaving identically. Lots of car crashes, one superb explosion, and the fleeting charms of Carmen Ejogo (Absolute Beginners) hardly compensate for the overall unpleasantness, in which sadism is taken for granted and no character is allowed to develop. The idiotic script is by Randy Feldman. Michael Rapaport plays Murphy’s partner; the most prominent leering villainwho actually chains the heroine to a buzz saw in the final showdownis Michael Wincott. (JR)

Published on 13 Feb 1997 in Featured Texts, by admin

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Salvatore Giuliano

Set just after World War II, Francesco Rosi’s 1961 feature about a Sicilian outlaw hero brought Rosi international fame. Clearly it’s one of his bestalthough his later films used variations on its flashback structure again and again, ultimately making some of it seem less fresh. Still, this is arguably as good as or better than anything Rosi has done since. (JR)

Published on 01 Feb 1997 in Featured Texts, by admin

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