Nat Turner: A Troublesome Property

Charles Burnett’s brilliant 2003 TV documentary about Nat Turner, the black slave in Virginia’s Southhampton County who led an 1831 revolt that resulted in the slaughter of 57 white men, women, and children and then, in retribution, the slaughter and mutilation of 60 to 80 slaves. Interviewing two dozen historians and theorists, half of them black, Burnett treats all their interpretations, many of which he dramatizes, as equally crediblea radical but plausible approach given how little is known about Turner. He’s most interested in charting how the interpretations were arrived at and why those of white and black commentators often differ, and that allows him to offer an exemplary history lesson on why, for a nation unable to come to terms with the legacy of slavery, Nat Turner remains a troublesome property. 57 min. (JR)

Published on 23 Feb 2007 in Featured Texts, by admin

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The Lives Of Others

I spent only an afternoon in East Germany before the Berlin Wall fell, but the fearful silence in public places left a lingering impression. The reasons behind it are explored by writer-director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck in his accomplished first feature, about the Stasi, the country’s secret police, which had a staff of over 90,000, plus countless informers, and spied on friend and foe alike. The fictional story here, set between 1984 and 1991, focuses on the investigation of a popular and patriotic playwright (Sebastian Koch); that the captain assigned to his case (touchingly played by Ulrich M

Published on 16 Feb 2007 in Featured Texts, by admin

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Lessons Of Darkness

In his characteristically dreamy Young Werther fashion, Werner Herzog generates a lot of bombastic and beautiful documentary footage out of the post-gulf war oil fires and other forms of devastation in Kuwait, gilds his own high-flown rhetoric by falsely ascribing it to Pascal, and in general treats war as abstractly as CNN, but with classical music on the soundtrack to make sure we know it’s art. This 1992 documentary may be the closest contemporary equivalent to Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will, both aesthetically and morally; I found it disgusting, but if you’re able to forget about humanity as readily as Herzog there are loads of pretty pictures to contemplate. 54 min. (JR)

Published on 16 Feb 2007 in Featured Texts, by admin

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The Lives of Others

I spent only an afternoon in East Germany before the Berlin Wall fell, but the fearful silence in public places left a lingering impression. The reasons behind it are explored by writer-director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck in his accomplished first feature, about the Stasi, the country’s secret police, which had a staff of over 90,000, plus countless informers, and spied on friend and foe alike. The fictional story here, set between 1984 and 1991, focuses on the investigation of a popular and patriotic playwright (Sebastian Koch); that the captain assigned to his case (touchingly played by Ulrich Muhe) is mainly sympathetic and working surreptitiously on the playwright’s behalf only makes this more disturbing. With Martina Gedeck (The Good Shepherd). In German with subtitles. R, 137 min. a Century 12 and CineArts 6, Landmark’s Century Centre.

Published on 16 Feb 2007 in Featured Texts, by jrosenbaum

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The Dead Girl

Unrelievedly grim, this searing second feature by TV actress Karen Moncrieff (Blue Car) guides an unusually able cast through a five-part feature that’s closer to a collection of interconnected short stories than to a novel. The episodes all revolve around the brutal murder of a young woman, and Moncrieff’s psychological and sociological perspective on the characters–and on the sickness and unhappiness that seem to bind them together–is almost always acute and never merely sensational. With Toni Collette, Rose Byrne, Mary Beth Hurt, Marcia Gay Harden, Brittany Murphy, Kerry Washington, Giovanni Ribisi, Piper Laurie, Mary Steenburgen, and Josh Brolin. R, 93 min. (JR)

Published on 09 Feb 2007 in Featured Texts, by admin

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