Code Unknown

Aptly subtitled “Incomplete Tales of Several Journeys,” the fifth feature by Austrian director Michael Haneke (2000, 117 min.), his best to date, is a procession of long virtuoso takes that typically begin and end in the middle of actions or sentences, constituting not only an interactive jigsaw puzzle but a thrilling narrative experiment comparable to Alain Resnais’ Je t’aime, je t’aime, Jacques Rivette’s Out 1, and Rob Tregenza’s Talking to Strangers. The film’s second episode is a nine-minute street scene involving an altercation between an actress (Juliette Binoche in a powerful performance), her boyfriend’s younger brother, an African music teacher who works with deaf-mute students, and a woman beggar from Romania; the other episodes effect a kind of narrative dispersal of these characters and some of their relatives across time and space. I couldn’t always keep up with what was happening, but I was never bored, and the questions raised reflect the mysteries of everyday life. This is Haneke’s first feature made in France, and the title refers to the pass codes used to enter houses and apartment buildings in Paris–a metaphor for codes that might crack certain global and ethical issues. In subtitled French, Malinke, Romanian, German, Arabic, and sign language–and also, occasionally, English. A 35-millimeter print will be shown. Facets Cinematheque, 1517 W. Fullerton, Saturday and Sunday, June 29 and 30, 12:30, 773-281-4114.

Published on 28 Jun 2002 in Featured Texts, by jrosenbaum

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Men In Black Ii

The best argument for a sequel to Men in Black (1995) was Linda Fiorentino as the plucky morgue pathologist, but this new installment replaces her with Rosario Dawson, whose function is more decorative than comic. Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones are back as Jay and Kay, government agents who monitor the high jinks of extraterrestrials on earth, and though director Barry Sonnenfeld (or somebody) has added a lot more beasties and other conceptual doodling (as well as product placements), the down-home satire of how we cope with cultural difference has evaporated, replaced by jazzy effects that wear out their welcome by the halfway mark. (The earth’s fate hanging in jeopardy near the end seems less urgent than whether Hope or Crosby will get Dorothy Lamour at the end of a Road comedy.) Michael Jackson has a cameo, Rip Torn and Tony Shalhoub reprise their original bits, and Lara Flynn Boyle as the head alien sprouts zillions of wormlike tentaclesbut a talking bulldog named Frank steals the show. 82 min. (JR)

Published on 25 Jun 2002 in Featured Texts, by admin

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The Fast Runner (atanarjuat)

Based on an Inuit legend and made almost entirely by Inuit filmmakers, this totally absorbing 172-minute feature (2001), winner of the Camera d’Or at Cannes, is exciting not as ethnography but as storytelling, as drama, and as filmmaking. In this respect, one might even wind up perversely missing the exoticism and implied critique of Western values found in Nanook of the North or The Savage Innocents, but only if one insists on finding arctic natives interesting because of their relation to other cultures and not on their own terms. Certainly the plot elements are universal: sexual competition, adultery, murder, pursuit, subterfuge, and justice, all seen in relation to the needs and preservation of a particular community and way of life. This story is set at the dawn of the first millennium, but the fact that we tend to forget about historical time frames entirely while watching it is a tribute to its power to grab and hold us. Directed by Zacharias Kunuk and written by Kunuk and Paul Apak Angilirq; with Natar Ungalaaq, Sylvia Ivalu, and Peter-Henry Arnatsiaq. In Inuktitut with subtitles. (JR)

Published on 24 Jun 2002 in Featured Texts, by admin

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Earth (1930) is the most famous of Alexander Dovzhenko’s masterpieces, but this white-hot war film, made the previous year and screening only once in the Gene Siskel Film Center’s invaluable Dovzhenko retrospective, is in many ways his most dazzling silent picture. Though it was commissioned to glorify the 1918 struggle of Bolshevik workers at a Kiev munitions factory against White Russian troops, Dovzhenko’s view of wartime and battlefront morality is too ambiguous and multilayered to fit comfortably within any propaganda scheme. More clearly influenced by Sergei Eisenstein than any of Dovzhenko’s other pictures, it’s certainly the one that uses fast editing in the most exciting fashion, and some of the poetic uses of Ukrainian folklore that were Dovzhenko’s specialty have an almost drunken abandon here–as in the singing horses. A 35-millimeter print will be shown, and David Drazin will provide live piano accompaniment. 92 min. Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State, Saturday, June 15, 4:15, 312-846-2800.

Published on 14 Jun 2002 in Featured Texts, by jrosenbaum

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