Films by Lewis Klahr
I haven’t seen Whirligigs in the Late Afternoon (1996), the longest show on this program, but Lewis Klahr’s dreamlike work is so special that I’m sure it’s worth checking out. I’m especially partial to Altair (1994), a gossamer “color noir” culled from late-40s pages of Cosmopolitan and set to the strains of a section of the Firebird Suite, and Pony Glass (1997), a collection of kinky and gender-bending nightmares involving repressed homoerotic fantasies, Superman sidekick Jimmy Olsen, and such stray elements as a maple leaf and a turtle. But Klahr is always doing something slightly uncanny, whether he’s confusing a toy carousel with actual traffic in the silent Green ‘62 (1996) or animating cutouts to the music of Berg in Lulu (1996). Klahr will be present to discuss his work, and admission to this Chicago Filmmakers program is free. Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington, Friday, May 22, 7:00, 773-384-5533 or 312-346-3278. –Jonathan Rosenbaum
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): uncredited film still.
This impressive first feature by Jill Sprecher, coscripting with her sister Karen, shows that she has an eye and ear all her own. The focus of this subtle and intelligent comedy is the experience of four office temps–played by Toni Collette (Muriel’s Wedding), Parker Posey, Lisa Kudrow, and Alanna Ubach–who temporarily bond to stave off their alienation and frustration, and each is presented as an individual, not a type. Collette’s character, perhaps the most distinctive in the bunch, also narrates, and the movie is especially good at sizing up the social atmosphere and dynamics of an impersonal firm as perceived by relative outsiders, not to mention the overall look and feel of such an environment. With Paul Dooley, Bob Balaban, and Helen Fitzgerald. Fine Arts.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): film still.
Julian Mitchell’s screenplay, supposedly based on Richard Ellmann’s biography of Oscar Wilde, focuses exclusively on the last stages of Wilde’s life and career: his marriage, his tortured relationship with Lord Alfred Bosie Douglas (played here by Jude Law in an upper-class reprise of his role in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil), and his subsequent martyrdom in court and in prison prior to his death. Though Brian Gilbert’s direction is certainly adequate, the only good reason for seeing this 1997 feature is Stephen Fry’s wonderfully nuanced, sweet-tempered, and charismatic performance as Wilde; almost everything else is PC hindsight and Merchant-Ivory spreads, though Vanessa Redgrave turns up briefly as Oscar’s mother. 115 min. (JR)
It’s remarkable how over the course of just three nightlife features — Metropolitan, Barcelona, and this comedy set in the early 1980s — writer-director Whit Stillman has created a form of mannerist dialogue as recognizable as David Mamet’s, a kind of self-conscious, upper-crust Manhattan gab reeking of hairsplitting cultural distinctions. Fortunately, this time around the Ivy League characters project less of a glib sense of entitlement, making them more fun to watch, and Stillman himself gives more evidence of watching rather than simply listening. The characters include two young women in publishing (Chloe Sevigny and Kate Beckinsale) who find a flat together, their roommate (Tara Subkoff), an employee at the club where they hang out (the always interesting Chris Eigeman), a fledgling ad executive (Mackenzie Astin), a junior assistant district attorney (Matt Keeslar), and a lawyer (Robert Sean Leonard). Stillman does interesting things with all of them. 113 min. (JR)