Film

  • Nowhere

    IN THE BEGINNING, director Gregg Araki’s reputation was tiny but sterling. His early, so-called no-budget movies Three Bewildered People in the Night (1987) and The Long Weekend (O’ Despair) (1989) were wildly admired for their gentle, depressive tone, seeming smarts, and movingly restrained psychological insight. Few people were making narrative films on the cheap back then, and Araki, a madly ambitious young fellow fascinatingly attuned to the inarticulate speech patterns and confused emotions of his generation, was rightly considered a promising, if blurry talent.

    If 1992’s The Living End—a

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  • All Over Me

    CLAUDE (ALISON FOLLAND) keeps a fun house–style mirror in the kitchen of the apartment she shares with her mom, the kind of mirror that makes even an average-sized human look like a stumpy whale. When Claude, a henna-haired fifteen-year-old who dresses in what can only be called husky sizes, and her blonde waif of a best friend, Ellen (Tara Subkoff), pass the mirror one afternoon, they fall into a mock-sex routine: Claude, in baggy shorts and tee, playing the butch dude, Ellen his/her femmy conquest. The girls start humping away, grunting and giggling at their warped images. Reflected behind

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  • Rainer Werner Fassbinder

    WHAT CAN YOU SAY about a fat, ugly sadomasochist who terrorized everyone around him, drove his lovers to suicide, drank two daily bottles of Rémy, popped innumerable pills while stuffing himself like a pig, then croaked from an overdose at 37? Marlene Dietrich in Touch of Evil probably said it all: “He was some kind of man. What does it matter what you say about people?”

    Anyway, there’s nothing you can say about Rainer Werner Fassbinder that he didn’t say about himself (in countless interviews and the horrific self-portrait in Germany in Autumn, 1978). He was the faithful mirror of an ugly world

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  • Basquiat

    WELL, IT’S REALLY not that bad.

    That was my gut reaction to a screening of artist Julian Schnabel’s directorial debut. Previous ’80s-artist-becomes-filmmaker vehicles (David Salle’s Search and Destroy, Robert Longo’s Johnny Mnemonic) had been poor precedents at best, and long delays in scheduling the screening had led me and others to speculate that the film’s distributor, Miramax, had gotten cold feet; but I left Basquiat (a flat-footed retitling of Schnabel’s original Build a Fort, Set It on Fire) with a peculiar sense of pleasure and/or relief. The ordinary expectations of schadenfreude had

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  • Trainspotting

    IN BRITAIN, POP CULTURE and drug culture are almost synonymous these days. From Oasis’ anthems of coked-out glory-lust to Pulp’s number-one hit “Sorted for E’s and Wizz” (a brilliantly ambivalent evocation of the dream and lie of rave), from the ganja-delic paranoia of Tricky to jungle’s journeys into the dark side of Ecstasy culture, British pop is all highs and lows, uppers and downers. Other sectors of the culture industry lag behind music in reflecting what every British kid takes for granted: the sheer omnipresence and banality of recreational drug use. Which is why Irvine Welsh, chronicler

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  • Mary Harron’s I Shot Andy Warhol

    THE SLEEK PAIR OF dark glasses sitting next to my computer keyboard has teeny portraits of mass murderers embedded in the sides of its plastic frame. Get it? They’re “dark” glasses, made in Austria, of all places, and available only at Moss, SoHo’s echt design store. These stark, degraded images are silkscreen-derived, off-register, generations away from whatever reality they could be said initially to represent.

    Hmm. I don’t see any women in this lineup. These glasses, like so much else, would not have been possible without Andy Warhol, and wearing them, or any other pair of shades, would much

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  • Gus Van Sant's To Die For

    FOLLOWING IN THE WAKE of the commercial and artistic failure of Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, Gus Van Sant’s new movie, To Die For, is perhaps his most conventional film, in spite of its fractured diegesis and multiple points of view; conventional, certainly, in its ostensible subject, a satire of the mass media, particularly the allure of television. This rather disingenuous theme, through which one arm of the media “critiques” an obstreperous rival, has been traversed in many movies: Network, The King of Comedy, Being There, and more recently, Serial Mom and Natural Born Killers. The trend

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  • Abel Ferrara’s The Addiction

    The Lost Object . . . must be therefore both adored and feared or despised, set apart. . . . “The most profound lost object” . . . is the immortality or perfection we imagine ourselves missing. . . . We invent gods and devils to measure up to it.

    —Peter Canning, “The Regime of Misery and the System of Judgement”

    FOR A WHILE THERE, as you may or may not remember, the abject was having its little moment on the intellectual catwalk, putting in its appearance as an esthetic-slash-ontological category. Confronted with the apparent impossibility of almost everything, we eagerly embraced the obvious

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  • Douglas Keeve's Unzipped

    DOUGLAS KEEVE’S DOCUMENTARY Unzipped, about fashion designer (and Keeve’s former boyfriend) Isaac Mizrahi, operates, perhaps involuntarily, as a corrective to the smug fatuities purveyed by Robert Altman’s recent, regrettable film about the fashion industry, Ready-to-Wear. Whereas Altman’s fictional account of fashion week in Paris was intent on demonstrating that the fashion business is—say it ain’t so!—venal, meretricious, dumb, and populated with characters to make Tod Browning’s Freaks look like The Brady Bunch, Keeve’s perspective is essentially that of the empathetic yet shrewd-eyed insider.

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  • Robert Longo’s Johnny Mnemonic

    FOR A WHILE ROBERT LONGO’S work has struggled against the perception that it emblematizes (in somehow the wrong way) the excesses of the evil ’80s. A more congenial take—borne out by his newly released feature film Johnny Mnemonic—would make his oeuvre one of the first and strongest expressions of the cyberpunk genre in the realm of static art.

    It’s been the talk of the town for a while now, all these art stars rushing out to make movies: Larry Clark, Matthew Barney, David Salle, Julian Schnabel (in preproduction on Build a Fort, Set It on Fire, about Jean-Michel Basquiat), and, coming soon,

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  • the Good, the Bad, and the Overlooked

    IN OCTOBER I COMPILED three lists for my own schizoid edification. The first consisted of the 50 best films I had seen this year at festivals in Berlin, Cannes, Locarno, and Toronto and as a member of the New York Film Festival selection committee (which entailed a screening of 100 more films in August). The second was my impression of what comprised the 50 most discussed films released in the United States this year; my third list was a selection of what I considered the 20 most important releases, whether they were widely discussed or not. Only one feature appears on all three lists—Todd

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  • David Salle's Search and Destroy

    I APPROACHED DAVID SALLE’S first movie with an open mind, if not exactly an open heart. Bashing Salle, after all, whether for his paintings or his public persona, has become a rather routine gesture; there’s not much pleasure left in it. (Eileen Daspin had perhaps the last gasp of dramatically wicked fun at Salle’s expense eighteen months ago in the fashion and society magazine W’s excoriating profile of the artist, which quoted yours truly.) It seemed a better idea to see Search and Destroy in a frame of mind in which I might actually enjoy the film. Getting a movie made is famously hard, and

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