COLUMNS

  • The Straight Story

    SEVENTY-NINE-YEAR-OLD Richard Farnsworth’s performance in David Lynch’s The Straight Story (1999) has a beautiful, disarming nakedness: There doesn’t seem to be anything between the elements and his weathered skin except the stubborn pride the old actor projects. As seventy-three-year-old Alvin Straight, who can barely walk yet drives a battered lawn mower nearly 300 miles from Iowa to Wisconsin to visit his sick, estranged brother, Farnsworth takes in the world and his own increasing frailty with an aching watchfulness. Farnsworth’s eyes articulate what Straight himself can’t put into words,

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  • Harmony Korine

    Film critics and buffs, even connoisseurs of the offbeat, have such a fierce love-hate relationship with Harmony Korine that it’s easy to forget the splash he made as the precocious teenage screenwriter of photographer Larry Clark’s film debut, Kids (1995). Clark’s protégé has since written and directed the daring if unpopular Gummo (1997) as well as his Dogma-accred-ited second feature, Julien Donkey-Boy (1999), while Clark has man-aged only Another Day in Paradise (1998), a clunky, misshapen crime thriller as flimsy excuse to fuss over the beautiful Vincent Kartheiser—suggesting that, when it

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  • Pedro Almodóvar

    DEDICATED “TO ALL ACTRESSES who have played actresses, to all women who act, to men who act and become women, to all people who want to be mothers,” and last but not least, to his own mom, Pedro Almodóvar’s All About My Mother, which opened the New York Film Festival in September, is a gender- and genre-bending tale of grief and renewal. The thirteenth film by the director of such previous international hits as Dark Habits (1983), Matador (1986), Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988), and most recently Live Flesh (1997), All About My Mother walks the fine line between melodrama and

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  • Kimberly Price

    AS YOU LIKE IT? First-time director Kimberly Peirce’s Boys Don’t Cry (which opened in October) dramatizes the true-life story of Teena Brandon, the small-town Nebraskan girl who lived and loved as a boy until she was brutally raped and murdered in 1993 for getting caught at it. Like the recent Matthew Sheppard killing, Brandon’s senseless death reverberated in the hollows of the American psyche, pitting our collective intolerance of sexual deviancy against our personal abhorrence of thuggery. While the historical record is a case study worthy of Gender Theory 101, Peirce’s docudrama harks back

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  • Atom Egoyan

    BY LEAVING HIS CUSTOMARY Canadian settings and cast of regulars behind in this adaptation of William Trevor’s novel Felicia’s Journey, director Atom Egoyan may have intended to challenge himself by filtering his customary preoccupations with family dysfunction and video technology through someone else’s vision. But the result falls far short of his 1997 adaptation of Russell Banks’s The Sweet Hereafter.

    Here, Felicia (Elaine Cassidy), a pregnant Irish teenager, travels to England in search of her baby’s father and winds up in the clutches of the obsessional factory manager Hilditch (Bob Hoskins).

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  • Charles and Ray Eames

    IN 1954, WHEN I WAS A PINK-CHEEKED lad of a mere thirteen years, our family—newly returned to Los Angeles from the aging, sooty confines of Cleveland—paid a visit to an old friend of my father’s who’d made it big at Capitol Records and built a house on Webster Drive, in LA’s Silver Lake district. The house was a simple box, half redwood and half glass, with a little stainless-steel trim. The far wall of the living room was entirely glass, looking out onto a sparse deck and, beyond, a spectacular view of the Silver Lake reservoir. Standing for the first time in the living room, I thought the home

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  • Titanic: Anatomy of a Blockbuster

    “Instant books” first appeared in the ’70s: thin, hastily written paperbacks designed to hit drugstore and airport sales racks while public interest in a political event or celebrity scandal remains fresh. The ’90s have given us the academic instant book, collections of essays that, because of the slow pace of scholarly publication, generally appear after public interest in whatever “hot” topic they explore has waned. Madonna, Princess Di, and the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan affair have been given the cultural studies treatment; now comes Titanic: Anatomy of a Blockbuster. Like the film itself,

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  • Kristin Jones talks with Olivier Assayas

    ITALO CALVINO ONCE DESCRIBED his primary working method as “the subtraction of weight,” an idea that also animates the latest film from the forty-four-year-old French director Olivier Assayas. Late August, Early September, which opens in New York in early July, is a story about suffering and death, but one infused with an extraordinary degree of lightness and spontaneity, stemming in part from the film’s elliptical construction and loosely sketched characters. This effortless quality is the result of years of exploration on Assayas’s part. He studied painting and literature, then wrote film

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  • François Truffaut

    BACK IN MY STUDENT DAYS I caught Jules and Jim practically every time it came around to a repertory house or college film society. I adored it, I knew it by heart, and I always walked out on a cloud, and so I wasn’t prepared, on seeing Francois Truffaut’s masterpiece several summers ago during a revival run at Film Forum, to be so blind-sided. For weeks the story of love derailed and friendship damaged wouldn’t leave me alone. I dreamed about it. I couldn’t get Georges Delerue’s tragic, lyrical music—in my book, the most perfect film score ever written—out of my head. And I puzzled over the

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  • Seijun Suzuki

    URINE PICTURESQUELY RUNNING DOWN a hit man’s socks into his wing-tip shoes, a systematic pillow girl servicing an army battalion on the Manchurian frontier, a cold-blooded killer getting aroused sniffing at a pot of rice, a frustrated student pounding a piano’s keys with his erect penis.

    There’s no business like Japanese show business, at least as practiced by ’60s B-movie savant Seijun Suzuki. Favoring violent non sequiturs and theatrical artifice over narrative continuity and genre boundaries, he hit audiences with hot and cold blasts of displacement, playfully tactile uses of image and sound,

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  • Larry Clark's Another Day in Paradise

    STOP THE PRESSES: Heroin chic is back! In his seductive new film, Another Day in Paradise, director Larry Clark revisits the midwestern subculture of junkies and petty thieves documented in his seminal photo-essay Tulsa (1971). But the territory Clark pioneered three decades ago isn’t as wild as it once was. After the strung-out look’s brief reign in the mid-’90s (when Tulsa was the unofficial primer for cutting-edge fashion photography), what had once been alien and dangerous became just another disposable marketing pose. And there’s the rub: The specter of heroin chic haunts Paradise, which

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  • The New York Film Festival

    SUSAN SONTAG’S 1996 PRONOUNCEMENT of cinema’s “ignominious, irreversible decline” seems especially obtuse in light of the 36th New York Film Festival (Sept. 25–Oct. 11), where widely publicized American films like Todd Haynes’s Velvet Goldmine and Todd Solondz’s Happiness (both reviewed in AF, Oct. 1998) played alongside promising debuts from younger filmmakers and strong contributions from the likes of Shohei Irnamura and Eric Rohmer. While there were disappointments (Alain Resnais’s lugubrious Dennis Potter tribute, Same Old Song, comes to mind), the festival boasted more outstanding films

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