COLUMNS

  • Six Degrees of Separation

    There is something morally anemic about Six Degrees of Separation. On Broadway, where it ran like a Restoration comedy on poppers, the messier social issues of John Guare’s play were folded in on themselves—as if a perfect sheet of dough covered everything with a creamy ubiquitousness. That the scary plight of the hustling black antihero is left willfully unresolved in order to serve up an epiphany of conscience to its careless white heroine caused nary a whisper of discontent.

    The play’s premise concerns a young man who claims to be the son of Sidney Poitier in order to insinuate himself into

    Read more
  • Schindler's List

    Not until Schindler was I really able to not reference other filmmakers,“ Steven Spielberg has said. ”I’m always referencing everybody. I didn’t do any of that on this movie.“ But he did something even more ”post-Modern" and appropriative: he referenced the Holocaust, and without understanding it. Instead of interpreting this particularly notorious part of modernity (a part that pessimists have come to view as symptomatic of the whole), instead of gaining insight into it, he identified himself with it the way one does with a film star.

    Schindler’s List is a filmic act of belated empathy yet of

    Read more
  • Menace II Society

    IT IS ONLY WITH DIFFICULTY that I tolerate the mediocrity of most contemporary black cinema, a trick I manage by constantly reminding myself that mediocrity is a necessary stage in the development of a mature practice. What I’m unable to tolerate is the delusional critical assessment of these films. Simply put, the so-called New Black Film Renaissance is as clear a case of the Emperor’s new clothes as I How can think of. With a handful of exceptions, these films are barely worth discussing in anything but the most base sociological or, worse, commercial terms. The incapacity, really the

    Read more
  • 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

    Read more
  • Ridley Scott's Blade Runner

    “YOU NEXUS, HAH?” asks the wizened Asian technician at Eyeworld. “I made your eyes.” Roy Batty, the android replicant, purses his lips in ironic amusement: “Well, if only you could see what I’ve seen with your eyes.”

    References to eyes abound throughout Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, not only at Eyeworld. The film’s second shot features a huge disembodied eye, staring unblinkingly at the infernal city spread before it (visible in the pupil as an impossibly clear reflection). Replicants’ eyes reflect with a glowing red when the light hits them right. The replicant-detecting apparatus of a blade

    Read more
  • 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

    Read more
  • the Other Ireland

    We see it often enough: revelations about the private life of a public figure escalate into full-blown political and media spectacles. It also happens, though, that “ordinary” individuals are wrenched from everyday life and projected onto a national stage, as if acting out some deeply repressed anxiety in the social psyche. What was it about narratives of sexuality in Ireland, for example, that earlier this year turned the private trauma of a 14-year-old girl into a crisis that convulsed the entire nation?

    In January, a Dublin schoolgirl, pregnant after an alleged rape by a neighbor, sought

    Read more
  • 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

    Read more
  • Milestones

    The things these kids have lived through.

    —from Milestones

    To stand still, to mark time on one spot, to be contented with the first goal it happens to reach, is never possible in revolution. And he who tries to apply homemade wisdom . . . to the field of revolutionary tactics only shows that the very psychology and laws of existence of revolution are alien to him and that all historical experience is to him a book sealed with seven seals.

    —Rosa Luxemburg

    The apocalyptic and its companion, the eschatological, dominated the thinking and rhetoric of the American sixties “movement” and the “counterculture.”

    Read more
  • The Venice Film Festival

    THE GREAT OCTOPUS, THE Venice Film Festival, whose tentacles pull in every film except the Baillie-Lehr-Snow structuralism, which is just too radical, takes place in a building as bland and depressingly familiar as Volker Schlondorff’s Strohfeuer. Neither the film palace nor the film (a young woman’s bid for freedom from her marital grind, but Schlondorff doesn’t give her a fighting chance) has a hint of Venice’s eccentric grandeur. There’s nothing Italian about the brand new two-story mausoleum which has to be perked up with massive freestanding bouquets of gladiolas (visiting sex bombs like

    Read more
  • Esthetic Polarity in Independent Cinema and Wintersoldier

    Any formulation of esthetic polarity in the independent cinema would most likely counterbalance social or political documentary with technologically oriented color abstract film. Although both forms create expectations of total immersion into the surface of the screen (the former emotional, the latter sensual in effect), the documentary is predicated on a naturalistically photographed image, a unity between subject and operational space, and the activation of all extrareferential material inherent in that space—usually by way of a spoken soundtrack (I am here excluding the travelogue and

    Read more
  • The End of Summer and Women in Love

    One of the strongest images in Ozu’s The End of Summer (1961) is the crematorium smokestack at the top of a bland, inexpressive landscape, symbolizing the end of an old rake, who sneaked a day at the bicycle races with his mistress and died of overexposure. The sinewy sturdy old man (Ganjiro Nakamura, who looks like Picasso himself with his cockiness and golden sturdy vigor) is the only rambunctious member of a very restrained, duty-conscious family—the invariable cornerstone around which Ozu constructs his pared down home drama perfections. The tactics of the long lead-in to the crematorium

    Read more