No Reservations

I don’t believe in fixing things that aren’t broken. Sandra Nettelbeck’s wholly accessible Mostly Martha (2001) is one of the most delightful comedies of recent years, so the idea of a remake with English instead of German dialogue is already pretty dubious, an insult to the capacities of both audiences and the original filmmakers. Catherine Zeta-Jones plays a neurotic chef trying to get along with both her eight-year-old niece (Abigail Breslin), whose mother has been killed, and a sous chef (Aaron Eckhart) who joins her kitchen staff. She’s miscast, but she can’t be blamed for lacking the verve and smarts Martina Gedeck showed in the original: Carol Fuchs’s silly, mushy script has her character swerve without warning between obtuse rigidity and sweet normalityto make her believable would have been all but impossible. Scott Hicks directed, and even the usually adept Patricia Clarkson as the heroine’s boss is set adrift. PG, 103 min. (JR)

Published on 27 Jul 2007 in Featured Texts, by admin

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Sylvia Scarlett

For my money, this 1935 feature is the most interesting and audacious movie George Cukor ever made. Katharine Hepburn disguises herself as a boy to escape from France to England with her crooked father (Edmund Gwenn); they fall in with a group of traveling players, including Cary Grant (at his most cockney); the ambiguous sexual feelings that Hepburn as a boy stirs in both Grant and Brian Aherne (an aristocratic artist) are part of what makes this film so subversive. Genre shifts match gender shifts as the film disconcertingly changes tone every few minutes, from farce to tragedy to romance to crime thriller–rather like the French New Wave films that were to come a quarter century later–as Cukor’s fascination with theater and the talents of his cast somehow hold it all together. The film flopped miserably when it came out, but it survives as one of the most poetic, magical, and inventive Hollywood films of its era. John Collier collaborated on the script, and Joseph August did the evocative cinematography. Screening in 16-millimeter; 95 min. Admission is free. a Sat 7/28, 7 and 9 PM, Univ. of Chicago Doc Films. –Jonathan Rosenbaum

Published on 27 Jul 2007 in Featured Texts, by jrosenbaum

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Interview

Writer-director Steve Buscemi fulfills a cherished project of Theo van Gogh, the Dutch filmmaker assassinated by an Islamic extremist in 2004, with this English-language remake of van Gogh’s hastily done two-hander Interview (2003), written by van Gogh’s friend Theodor Holman. Van Gogh was a deliberately unpleasant provocateur, and his hand is evident in this playlike encounter between a political reporter (Buscemi) and the schlock TV actress he’s assigned to interview (Sienna Miller). But the good direction and performances seem wasted on limited material; despite a few interesting twists and ambiguities, the main revelationthat the reporter is an insufferable snobdoesn’t seem worth the 84 minutes devoted to spelling it out. R. (JR)

Published on 20 Jul 2007 in Featured Texts, by admin

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Sylvia Scarlett

For my money, this 1935 feature is the most interesting and audacious movie George Cukor ever made. Katharine Hepburn disguises herself as a boy to escape from France to England with her crooked father (Edmund Gwenn); they fall in with a group of traveling players, including Cary Grant (at his most cockney); the ambiguous sexual feelings that Hepburn as a boy stirs in both Grant and Brian Aherne (an aristocratic artist) are part of what makes this film so subversive. Genre shifts match gender shifts as the film disconcertingly changes tone every few minutes, from farce to tragedy to romance to crime thrillerrather like the French New Wave films that were to come a quarter century lateras Cukor’s fascination with theater and the talents of his cast somehow hold it all together. The film flopped miserably when it came out, but it survives as one of the most poetic, magical, and inventive Hollywood films of its era. John Collier collaborated on the script, and Joseph August did the evocative cinematography. 95 min. (JR)

Published on 18 Jul 2007 in Featured Texts, by admin

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Emil And The Detectives

This 2001 German feature is the fourth adaptation of Erich Kastner’s 1928 novel, about a 12-year-old boy who gets robbed en route to Berlin and enlists a team of street kids (the detectives of the title) to recover his money. I haven’t seen the celebrated first version, released in Germany in 1931, though I suspect its time and place are more hospitable to the tale’s collectivist feeling (the plot has some interesting parallels to Fritz Lang’s M). This version favors action and sight gags over characters or milieu, and it updates the story to include skateboarding, hip-hop, and a different family setup for the young hero. It’s a pretty good kids’ movie, nothing more. In German with subtitles. 111 min. (JR)

Published on 13 Jul 2007 in Featured Texts, by admin

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