French Twist

In her 1995 debut as writer-director, French actress Josiane Balasko (Too Beautiful for You, Grosse Fatigue) tries her hand at more political incorrectness. This very middle-class bisexual comedycalled Gazon Maudit in French and substantially censored by its American distributor, apparently under the assumption that we’re even more middle-class than the Frenchconcerns a frustrated housewife and mother (Pedro Almodovar regular Victoria Abril) who decides to get even with her philandering husband (Alain Chabat) by getting involved with another woman (Balasko), a stranger who happens by when her van breaks down. I loved Abril in this movie and liked Balasko, but though there was loud laughter all around me, I was only fitfully amused. In French with subtitles. 107 min. (JR)

Published on 26 Feb 2005 in Featured Texts, by admin

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Diary Of A Mad Black Woman

Playwright-actor-producer Tyler Perrya star of the so-called chitlin’ circuit, with eight shows currently credited to himadapts one of his hits for the big screen, directed by Darren R. Grant. The title heroine (Kimberly Elise)who’s angry, not crazyis dumped by her rich attorney husband (Steve Harris) for a white bimbo after 18 years of marriage; eventually she gets even and finds both true love (Shemar Moore) and her soul’s salvation. Perry plays her battle-ax grandmother Madea (featured in several Perry shows) as well as Madea’s lecherous brother and his upstanding son, and Cicely Tyson plays her mother. The stylistic discontinuities and pile-driver excesses can be off-putting for an outsider like me, but for fans this may well be part of the appeal. PG-13, 116 min. (JR)

Published on 25 Feb 2005 in Featured Texts, by admin

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The Jacket

This gothic jigsaw puzzle, directed by John Maybury (Love Is the Devil) from a script by many hands, promises to be another Jacob’s Ladder but doesn’t deliver. Maybury’s art-world talents don’t include storytelling, and his visceral bursts of fast editing and extreme close-ups don’t yield any full-blown characters, narrative, or political vision (though I could swear I heard Noam Chomsky’s voice briefly coming from a TV). Leapfrogging between 1992 and 2007 and between fantasy and reality, the plot concerns an American GI (Adrien Brody) who nearly dies from a head wound during the first gulf war, gets framed for the murder of a cop back in his native Vermont, and winds up in a hospital for the criminally insane, where an evil shrink (Kris Kristofferson) performs hideous experiments on him. With Keira Knightley, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kelly Lynch, and music by Brian Eno. The executive producers include George Clooney and Steven Soderberghmaybe they can explain what’s going on. R, 104 min. (JR)

Published on 25 Feb 2005 in Featured Texts, by admin

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So Long Letty

A rarely screened early sound (1929) musical comedy adapted from the stage and featuring six-foot Charlotte Greenwood in the title role. (A silent version had been released nine years earlier.) An energetic, highly physical performer, Greenwood appeared later in such 50s musicals as Dangerous When Wet and Oklahoma. With Grant Withers, Patsy Ruth Miller, and Bert Roach. 64 min. (JR)

Published on 25 Feb 2005 in Featured Texts, by admin

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