Park Jin-pyo’s semifictional love story (2002) about a man and woman in their early 70s, played by a real-life couple who reenact some of their own experiences, was banned in Korea until late last year because of its explicit sex scenes. I admire this feature more than I like it, partly because I resent the hokey music and wonder if the filmmakers aren’t a little too pushy in advancing their noble intentions. Still, this is a serious look at the potential joys and sorrows of growing old, and Park Chi-gyu and Lee Sun-ye are certainly affecting in the lead roles. In Korean with subtitles. 77 min. (JR)
Brian Dannelly’s first feature is audacious and likable not only for its satirical treatment of fundamentalist Christian teenagers (Jena Malone, Mandy Moore, Macaulay Culkin, Patrick Fugit, Eva Amurri) and a couple of their elders (Martin Donovan, Mary-Louise Parker) but also for its sympathy toward them. Dannelly and cowriter Michael Urban seem to have firsthand knowledge of how religious vocabulary can deteriorate into a rhetoric that serves any agenda. Even more important, they balance their ridicule with a sharp sense of how difficult being a teenager is. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a teen movie as lively, as unpredictable, as generous, and as tough-minded as this one. PG-13, 92 min. Pipers Alley, River East 21.
From the Chicago Reader (May 28, 2004). — J.R.
Like Mystery Train and Night on Earth, this feature by Jim Jarmusch is a collection of short stories, but it’s funnier and more formally adventurous than either; it’s also ultimately greater than the sum of its parts. Shot in black and white over 17 years, its 11 episodes feature actors and/or musicians, usually playing themselves and hanging out together in cafes while consuming caffeine and nicotine. One recurring theme is the ethics and protocol of being a celebrity (explored most impressively by Alfred Molina and Steve Coogan, and by Cate Blanchett in a virtuoso double role as herself and her own cousin); another is the everyday tension that can develop between friends and relatives. Among the two dozen stars are Isaach de Bankole, Roberto Benigni, Steve Buscemi, GZA, RZA, Bill Murray, Iggy Pop, Bill Rice, Taylor Mead, Tom Waits, and the White Stripes. R, 96 min. Music Box.
The only Jim Jarmusch feature that qualifies as apprentice work is his first (1980), shot in 16-millimeter for a master’s thesis at NYU. Sixteen-year-old drifter Chris Parker plays a version of himself as he walks the decrepit streets of lower Manhattan (the best scene shows him dancing to an Earl Bostic record). Jarmusch has already discovered his milieu, and his interest in both minimalist form and character as plot are already in evidence. But this lacks his characteristic charm, stylistic focus, and feeling for interactions between people, and the slowed-down Javanese gamelan music on the sound track only makes this seem more stodgy and intractable. 80 min. (JR)