Manohla Dargis

  • JOHNNY IN THE CITY: MIKE LEIGH'S NAKED

    In Mike Leigh’s films people don’t just talk, they stutter and struggle—against class, repression, hopelessness, the mother country, the King’s English. Arguably the most important director working in the U.K. today, Leigh has also been one of his country’s least bankable auteurs, turning out over a dozen features and a handful of shorts since 1971 that for the most part have been seen only on television. His new film, Naked, should scrape away at the director’s anonymity, not simply because it picked up awards for best director and best actor (for lead David Thewlis) at last year’s Cannes Film

  • MOBILE HOME

    GUS VAN SANT EASES borders into oblivion. In all four of his feature films—Mala Noche, Drugstore Cowboy, My Own Private Idaho, and now Even Cowgirls Get the Blues—characters test the margins by way of drugs and sex and sometimes love, much as Van Sant himself defies esthetic limits. In Drugstore Cowboy, Matt Dillon leads a crew of pharmaceutical pirates as visions of spoons and syringes dance in his head; in Idaho, the doors of perception swing open on a stretch of asphalt, only to close whenever River Phoenix takes a dive.

    At first glance, Tom Robbins’ creaky ’70s novel, with its soft-core

  • RUBY ON THE ROAD

    VECTOR NUNEZ’S RUBY IN PARADISE jump-starts on a lick of asphalt as a woman’s voice fills the air and her look fills the frame. A quiet thoughtful woman in a quiet thoughtful film, Ruby Lee Gissing is speeding down the highway, not to find work or romance or adventure but to find herself. Ruby has gotten out of Tennessee without, in her words, in Nunez’s words, “getting pregnant or beat up, which says something.” When she hits the Florida coast she takes a job in a notions store and waits for life to happen; which it does, eventually, by way of reading, writing, a friend, and two affairs, one

  • Gillian Armstrong’s Last Days Chez Nous

    A man’s home is his castle. A woman’s place is in the home. A house is not a home. Home is where the heart is.

    THE HOMES SOME OF US live in are made of mortar and wood and tenderness. For others, they are built from battered tin cans, cardboard boxes, terror. We also have homes in thought: I imagine feminism as a home, for example, in which, in an ideal world, room after room runs into the next, with all the doors open and the boundaries blurred. Ideas circulate like air, clearing out stuffiness and breathing life into stale corners. But for many of us, feminism is no longer a safe house; a

  • MALICE TOWARD NUNS

    ABEL FERRARA TAKES NO PRISONERS—not in conversation and certainly not in the seven feature films he’s directed over the past 13 years, especially his latest epic in degeneration, Bad Lieutenant. Starring Harvey Keitel, Bad Lieutenant tracks a few sorry days in the life of a nameless New York cop who’s going down fast and hard. An alcoholic crackhead on a gambling tear, he’s the kind of guy with one hand on his dick and another that’s always in some shmuck’s pocket. Shot for less than two million dollars, the film has the raw, pulpy texture of great ’70s movies like The French Connection, but

  • Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs

    Let me tell you what “Like a Virgin”’s about. It’s about this cooz who’s a regular fuckin’ machine. I’m talkin’ morning day night afternoon dick dick dick dick dick dick dick dick dick.

    Then one day she meets this John Holmes motherfucker and it’s like, Whoa baby. I mean this cat is like Charles Bronson in The Great Escape: he’s diggin’ tunnels. All right, she’s gettin’ some serious dick action and she’s feelin’ somethin’ she hasn’t felt since forever. Pain. Pain. It hurts, it hurts her . . . just like it did the first time. You see the pain is remindin’ the fuck machine what it was once like to

  • Tom Kalin's Swoon

    ON MAY 21, 1924, Nathan Leopold, Jr., and Richard Loeb murdered Robert Franks, their 13-year-old neighbor, in the back of a rented pale-blue Willys-Knight while motoring along a busy Chicago highway. They then made a failed attempt to extort ransom money from the dead boy’s father, a wealthy entrepreneur. Eight days later both were arrested, brought in on circumstantial evidence—Leopold had inadvertently left his custom-made eyeglasses at the marsh where the naked and mutilated body had been secreted. Two days later the friends confessed. Subsequently tried and convicted, they were sentenced to

  • Bad-Girl Boots

    LAST FALL I TOOK to the streets. My hair still damp, I rushed from my haircutter’s loft in SoHo burning with consumer want, and not a little envy. For as I’d watched her cut my hair it had seemed to me that my haircutter, crowned by pre-Raphaelite ringlets and weighted down by massive Na Na engineer boots, had somehow triumphed over the contradictions of femininity. She was ethereal and earthy, at once beautiful and butch—but only a little butch. In her, the alchemy of desire that has plagued me since adolescence had found its essence. I craved her boots.

    The search that afternoon was tedious.

  • The Deadman

    A DEAD MAN LIES NAKED, sprawled across a bed. From somewhere there’s the oppressive drone of a buzzing fly; a nearly naked woman flees the scene. Peggy Ahwesh’s and Keith Sanborn’s take on Georges Bataille’s story “The Deadman” begins like art-house pulp, an adults-only Kiss Me Deadly, but it quickly becomes something less comfortable. This is not warmed-over noir, it’s sex—raw, erotic, pornographic, maybe even feminist. So strong you can smell it.

    During the ’70s, feminist intellectuals here and abroad—Laura Mulvey wrote the landmark “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” in 1973—established a