Twin Peaks

The original 1990 pilot for David Lynch’s mystery series, with 15 minutes of extra footage, including a solution of sorts. It’s a lot better than what followed. 113 min. (JR)

Published on 31 Jan 2002 in Featured Texts, by admin

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Storytelling

Hearing in advance about the formal experimentation by independent writer-director Todd Solondz (Welcome to the Dollhouse, Happiness) in this feature raised my hopes, but I was disappointed to find that Solondz is now reduced to treating his characters like puppets. His lack of regard for them fits in fairly well with his division of the universe between sadistic predators and hapless victims, but not with the viewer’s desire to consider the fates of actual people. In the first and better episode, Fiction, sexual intrigues interface with a creative-writing class, and Solondz tweaks various PC reflexes about race and disability. The second, Non-Fiction, which is roughly twice as long and three times as loose, involves a disgruntled documentary filmmaker taking on a dysfunctional suburban family with a maid from El Salvador. There’s undoubtedly food for thought here if you dig for it, but the things Solondz does to his actors, supposedly in the interests of satire, didn’t make me want to reach for a shovel. With Selma Blair, Leo Fitzpatrick, Robert Wisdom, Paul Giamatti, Mark Webber, John Goodman, and Julie Hagerty. 88 min. (JR)

Published on 21 Jan 2002 in Featured Texts, by admin

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Shanghai Ghetto

Dana Janklowicz-Mann and Amir Mann’s fascinating 2002 documentary focuses on a little-known historical sidebar of World War IIthe Jewish settlements in Shanghai, which included about 20,000 German Jews (who were able to emigrate there without passport control) and Jews from Baghdad and Russia who’d already settled there. Basically a talking-head film in English, augmented by period photographs and footage of a recent return trip by many German Jews, this was visibly shot on digital video, but that fact stopped bothering me once I became absorbed in the material, which was very quickly. Especially interesting are the complex relations among the residents of the ghetto, their amicable Chinese neighbors (many of whom were even poorer than the Jews), the Japanese soldiers occupying the city, and the more well-to-do Iraqi Jews (who were British subjects) and Americans; these last two groups eventually wound up in internment camps outside the city. 95 min. (JR)

Published on 17 Jan 2002 in Featured Texts, by admin

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Dinner Rush

A nicely shaped script by Chicagoans Rick Shaughnessy and Brian Kalata makes this independent comedy drama (2000) a pleasure to watch. Directed by restaurateur Bob Giraldi, it unfolds over a winter evening at an Italian restaurant in Manhattan’s Tribeca (though it was originally set in Chicago). Danny Aiello stars as the owner, who’s the father of the nouvelle cuisine chef (Edoardo Ballerini). Others on the staff include Kirk Acevedo and Summer Phoenix; among the restaurant guests are an art critic (Mark Margolis), a restaurant reviewer (Sandra Bernhard), and a couple of crooks trying to muscle in on the business. The action is nicely paced, and the story has a very satisfying payoff. With Vivian Wu, Mike McGlone, John Corbett, and Polly Draper. 98 min. (JR)

Published on 15 Jan 2002 in Featured Texts, by admin

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