The only time I’ve watched Louis Malle’s six-hour, seven-part 1968 documentary series in its entirety was 27 years ago, but seeing two sections again recently reminded me why this may be my favorite of all of his films. Malle’s upper-class misanthropy and morbidity have generally alienated me from his work, but this essayistic travel diary avoids any pretense of objectivity in order to present itself as a highly personal search, narrated in excellent English by Malle himself. In the first episode, “The Impossible Camera,” Malle addresses the problem of everyone he meets in India describing the country in Western terms, then goes on to reflect on how his filmmaking affects his subjects; from there he takes in everything from a water buffalo being devoured by vultures to interviews with a few European hippies about why they’re in India. “Dream and Reality,” the fourth part, is centered on Kerala and considers the use of elephants as a workforce, Indians’ reverence for life, the destruction of the environment, and the three political parties comprising Kerala’s communist majority. With his wide-ranging but rambling approach Malle undoubtedly misses or skimps on certain topics, but his mercurial intelligence keeps this lively and fascinating. Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington, Monday (parts one through four) and Tuesday (parts five through seven), November 29 and 30, 5:30, 312-744-6630.
In a millennial mood and neat black clothes, the devil (Gabriel Byrne) arrives in New York in search of a brideRobin Tunney plays his unsuspecting choiceand apparently the only one who can stop him from taking her (and humanity into the bargain) is Arnold Schwarzenegger, as an alcoholic ex-cop. He protects the young lady, whips Satan’s ass, gets crucified at least twice, and briefly turns into Lucifer himself, but saves the human race just the same. In real life, of course, Schwarzenegger is a millionaire, so who would dare begrudge him his desire to play Christ and the Antichrist at practically the same time? Catholics should find this loud, campy horror show a lot more offensive than Dogma, but I guess money speaks louder than faithand here, as in Paradise Lost, Satan gets all the best lines. Peter Hyams, a pretty good cinematographer but a mediocre director, goes to work on a script by Andrew W. Marlowe that
James Bond will return, says the closing title of this somewhat better than average 007 adventure, but the bottom line is that he’s never been away. The cold war may be dead and buried, but British intelligence needs to be kept busy, even if this meansas the script briefly and wittily suggestscreating its own enemies. With an appropriately imperialistic title (does it apply to the villains or to Anglo-American intelligence? does it matter?), a better than average director (Michael Apted), and locations ranging from Spain to Azerbaijan to Turkey, this keeps one reasonably amused, titillated, and brain-dead for a little over two hours. The principal Bond babes this time around are Sophie Marceau and Denise Richards, not counting Judi Dench as Bond’s boss; Bruce Feirstein and Michael France had something to do with the script (1999, 127 min.). (JR)
Two filmmakers fresh out of school (John Livingston and Mos Def) are shooting a documentary in Los Angeles about a private detective (Miguel Ferrer). When their subject’s partner (John Slattery) gets involved with a client’s wife and quits, the filmmakers take his place. Originally put together as a TV pilot and then expanded, this goofball comedy is easy to take and just as easy to leave aloneunless you develop an affection for the hapless characters, which isn’t too hard to do. Daniel Pyne directed from a script he wrote with John Mankiewicz; with Allison Dean. 97 min. (JR)