Slam

Though not really as accomplished as it’s cracked up to be, this Cannes and Sundance prizewinner about a young rap poet (Saul Williams) finding himself in prison with the help of a sensitive writing teacher (Sonya Sohn) has all the inspirational uplift it strives for, and some pretty good rap performances as well. The fact that it wears its good intentions so clearly on its sleeve limits it. Directed by Marc Levin from a script he authored with Richard Stratton, Sohn, Williams, and costar Bonz Malone. (JR)

Published on 26 Oct 1998 in Featured Texts, by admin

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Pleasantville

Teenage siblings from a broken family (Tobey Maguire and Reese Witherspoon) find themselves transported via a mysterious TV repairman (Don Knotts) to the “perfect” town of a 50s black-and-white sitcom called Pleasantville; eventually they bring about changes in the town and TV show, introducing rain, fire, reading, rock, jazz, and above all color. The directorial debut of Gary Ross (screenwriter of Big and Dave), this ideologically confused but fascinating postmodernist fantasy is about five years off — the date is 1958, but the clothes and decor are much closer to 1953. Furthermore, one might argue that Ross, who also scripted and coproduced, is even more hypocritical than he claims the 50s were: his film is about the 90s bringing life and spirit to the 50s, yet its emotional thrust — which is what makes it so interesting — is to reject the 90s in toto, in favor of the 50s and the onset of the 60s. It’s axiomatic that we’re supposed to be more sophisticated than our predecessors, but then people in the 50s could choose between color and black-and-white movies, while black-and-white movies can be made or seen today only with arcane excuses (like the plot of this one). It’s also both axiomatic and unfortunate that our grasp of the 50s comes largely from sitcoms, which is part of what makes this movie so confused. But what Ross does with this material — a kind of Wizard of Oz in reverse — is magical, visually exciting, affecting even in its sincere hokeyness, and extremely provocative. With Jeff Daniels, Joan Allen, William H. Macy, and the late J.T. Walsh as the mayor of Pleasantville. –Jonathan Rosenbaum

Published on 23 Oct 1998 in Featured Texts, by jrosenbaum

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Films By Daniele Wilmouth

Daniele Wilmouth’s striking 13-minute Curtain of Eyes (1997), an experimental film working with elements of Japanese butoh. On the same program, Wilmouth’s work in progress Pinman and a short video by Ximena Musch entitled Compose. (JR)

Published on 01 Oct 1998 in Featured Texts, by admin

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Dance Of The Dust

This 1992 feature about impoverished bricklayers was originally banned in Iran, then mutilated through the addition of an offscreen narration by its boy hero, which director Abolfazl Jalili had nothing to do with; this year it surfaced at the Locarno film festival in its original form and won several prizes. It

Published on 01 Oct 1998 in Featured Texts, by admin

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