The New Babylon

Grigori Kozintsev and Leonid Trauberg’s exciting, extremely physical 1929 film about the 1871 Paris Commune takes its name from a huge Paris department store at the center of an armed struggle between working-class communards and French soldiers. It’s odd that the movie isn’t as famous as the revolutionary classics of Eisenstein and Pudovkin, because it’s every bit as stirring and richly detailed. (Appropriately, it received a major rerelease in Paris soon after the civil unrest of May 1968.) A large-scale production, it grew out of the groundbreaking Soviet theater-and-film workshop Factory of the Eccentric Actor, better known as FEKS. It’s brutally honest about class hatred, using its lightning-quick montage to clarify the connections between all the characters (ranging from the department store’s proprietor to a shopgirl and from a washerwoman to a soldier), and its dazzling tricks with lighting and focus dramatize Paris’s opulent high life as well as its poverty. 80 min. (JR)

Published on 27 Feb 2004 in Featured Texts, by admin

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The Girl Next Door

An ambitious high school senior (Emile Hirsch) finds his life shifting into overdrive after he falls for a porn star (Elisha Cuthbert) who’s house-sitting next door. This comedy is an ill-fated attempt to remake Risky Business (1983) for the 21st century, complete with a wind-chimey score, the hero posing in his underpants, and a cynical happy ending. At 110 minutes it lingers far too long, although I enjoyed Timothy Olyphant as a slick villain. Luke Greenfield directed, bombastically. R. (JR)

Published on 27 Feb 2004 in Featured Texts, by admin

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Chronicle Of The Years Of Embers

Mohammed Lakhdar-Hamina’s 1975 Algerian feature in ‘Scope, about a peasant joining the Algerian war of independence, won the Palme d’Or at Cannes but has seldom been seen or discussed since. In Arabic with subtitles. 177 min. (JR)

Published on 20 Feb 2004 in Featured Texts, by admin

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