(Steven Brill, USA 2002)
I´ve never seen the Capra version, but I imagine, since the remake is reportedly faithful to the storyline of the original, it had its purpose in New Deal propaganda. These days however it´s propaganda for Murdoch/Gates/Coca Cola/fill in the blank/THEM, and I find the thought its major target groups (teenagers and, at least here, working class) should cheer that pretty cynical. It´s not helped exactly by the fact that no one even believes in the whole contrivance, Brill has no sense of direction and that Winona Ryder, looking seriously desperate, is in some other movie. One Sandlerian moment: a sudden burst into Bowie´s "Major Tom"; John Turtorro doing some funny bits with a "sneaky, sneaky" routine that soon gets tired; Steve Buscemi doing a Ben Turpin impressions for reasons I don´t want to imagine. Which leaves 90 completely uninteresting minutes out of 96.One of the worse films I´ve seen this year.
(Jacques Rivette, France 1985)
The first part of "Wuthering Heights" reimagined in France in the 1930s with the actors improvising on the basis of the text, having been advised by the director to bring in personal experiences. At least that´s what I´m told: info is scarce on this one, I´ve never read the book or seen any of the other adapions. I´m still not decided on the movie: In turns I thought it was horseshit, then a work of genius, sometimes both at the same time. Despite some occasional interior stage-like framing, it looks astoundingly conventional (this may be the most consciously agile camera Rivette has ever used), though you have to get accustomed to the acting which has a taste for amateur theatralics (the two male leads mainly stalk the film like zombies). The source material is completely demystified in the process, but I´m unsure whether what it´s replaced with - an oddball projection of the everyday enshrouding stylized Greek tragedy - was worth it. Fascinating and unsatisfying, even if it contains at least one shot of utter gretaness, a dream sequence that naturally and unexpectedly leads to Fabienne Babe looking like a georgeous, otherwordly presence.
A Matter of Life and Death
aka Stairway of Heaven
(Emeric Pressburger/Michael Powell, UK 1946)
The films of Pressburger/Powell seem to get better on each repeated viewing, mainly becuase they have an almost throwaway generousness of ideas. Seeing this one on the big screen for the first time (a ravishingly restored BFI Technicolor print except for one mismatched shot of Roger Livesey) probably didn´t hurt either. Almost certainly a masterpiece.
(Steve Rash, USA 2001)
More bad comedy I had to watch for work, this hopelessly TVish effort (Rash is probably an even worse director than Brill, if that matters) is so anally fixated on sex and money that the change of hapless Charlie Sheen from cruel broker to sensitive columnist feels like an unwelcome concession to genre rules. Female characters are only in the frame to look beautiful and spout inane dalogue. (While Denise Richards and Angie Harmon seem to be capable of exactly that
, Rosanne Arquette at least puts serious effort in trying to be funny: in vain). Barry Newman is the evil adversary (professional relish; why is his name almost identcal to Don Simpsons´s?), Jon Lovitz the only one to continually elevate the material by delivering his lines in a hilarious, self-conscious daze. I hereby renounce commercial filmmaking for the weekend, and will begin my marathon of Rivette´s 13-hour Out One: Noli me tangere
within short notice.
Record of the 2nd week of July: Plastic Fang by the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. (Belated addition: record of the 1st week of July was Sonic Youth´s Murray Street.)