Kiss or Kill

Who needs another killer couple fleeing cross-country with cops in hot pursuit? Yet thanks to this Australian thriller’s aggressive and unnerving formal approach–jump cuts that send us hurtling through the story like a needle skipping across a record and an inventive camera style that defamiliarizes characters as well as settings–the duo’s paranoia is translated into the slithery uncertainty of our own perceptions. The creepy alienation of the lead couple (Frances O’Connor and Matt Day) from their victims and the world in general eventually infects their own relationship, and variations on their mistrust crop up between the cops pursuing them and in just about every other cockeyed existential encounter in the film. Apart from some juicy character acting and striking uses of the outback as landscape, what distinguishes this genre exercise by veteran director Bill Bennett is the metaphysical climate he produces through style, transforming suspense into genuine dread; this is the most interesting reworking of noir materials I’ve seen since After Dark, My Sweet or The Underneath. Pipers Alley. –Jonathan Rosenbaum

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

Published on 28 Nov 1997 in Featured Texts, by jrosenbaum

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Guantanamera

The last feature (1994, 104 min.) of late Cuban director Tomas Gutierrez Alea (Memories of Underdevelopment, The Last Supper), codirected by Juan Carlos Tabio and starring Alea’s wife Mirtha Ibarra. This charming and earthy road comedy, about a solution for the gasoline shortage hatched at an undertakers’ convention, fleetingly recalls William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying as well as Luis Bu

Published on 24 Nov 1997 in Featured Texts, by admin

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Fast, Cheap & Out of Control

Fast, Cheap & Out of Control

Errol Morris’s best film to date–a clear advance on Gates of Heaven, Vernon, Florida, The Thin Blue Line, and A Brief History of Time–alternates interviews with four unconnected individuals: a lion tamer, a topiary gardener, a mole-rat specialist, and a robot scientist. The result is more a poem than a documentary, made coherent by Morris’s formal precision: he links found footage with the interviews, black and white with color, in a dreamlike continuity that invites the viewer to trace his or her own connections. It’s not at all difficult to watch, as the premise might suggest; in fact it’s beautiful as well as moving, an achievement of synthesis that announces Morris’s arrival as a master. Music Box, Friday through Thursday, November 21 through 27. –Jonathan Rosenbaum

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

Published on 21 Nov 1997 in Featured Texts, by jrosenbaum

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Colonial Imaging: Early Films From the Netherlands Film Museum

Colonial Imaging: Early Films From the Netherlands Film Museum

Imagine you’re an American (or Dutch or French) tourist or explorer during the 1910s or 20s, visiting Africa, Indochina, the Dutch East Indies, and other remote places, gawking at the natives and their everyday lives and customs. At once fascinating and unnerving, this two-day, five-part program of silent films documents that experience. Having previewed about half of these intrusive travelogues on video, minus music and in some cases the early color processes some of them employed, I still found this a dazzling–and troubling–basket of riches. The filmmakers and their presuppositions are as clearly inscribed in the footage as their subjects, whether the spectacle happens to be Egyptians praying in 1920, the remarkable (and racist) animated interludes in a 1918 item about an American national park, extended looks at life in the Dutch East Indies in the teens, or 1928 glimpses of the American south (which imperialistically includes Cuba and Panama). When Martin and Osa Johnson, filming “Australian cannibals” in 1917, implicitly contrast their own “precautionary” rifles with those of the “bloodthirsty tribes” armed by “unscrupulous traders,” the duplicity becomes transparent. Saturday’s programs will include symposia at which an impressive array of local and visiting scholars (among them the University of Chicago’s Tom Gunning, Miriam Hansen, and Yuri Tsivian, three of the most sophisticated silent film specialists to be found anywhere) will delve into the meanings and implications of this rare material. Univ. of Chicago, 1212 E. 59th St., Friday, November 21, 7:00 (Looking Back, featuring original piano accompaniment by Sebastian Huydts, and The Work of J.C. Lamster, accompanied by Friends of the Gamelan), and Saturday, November 22, 9:00 AM (The Colonial Gaze at Home: Nonurban Scenes From Europe and the United States, accompanied by Huydts, and films by Martin and Osa Johnson), 773-702-8575; also Univ. of Chicago Film Studies Center, 5811 S. Ellis, Saturday, November 22, 2:00 (home movies from the Dutch East Indies), 773-702-8596. –Jonathan Rosenbaum

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Simba: King of the Beasts film still.

Published on 21 Nov 1997 in Featured Texts, by jrosenbaum

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