Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Richard T. Jameson, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: Miss Julie

[Written for Amazon.com]

The fascination of August Strindberg’s Miss Julie, as play or film, resides in the quicksilver shifts of power and vulnerability, assurance and desperation, seducer and seducee, almost from line to line — in the text and, ideally, in the performances of two equally matched actors. One Midsummer’s Eve, in the scullery of a country manor, the aristocratic daughter of the house and the major-domo Jean conduct a kind of mating dance on a killing ground. Each is clearly attracted to the other; each, just as clearly, resents and despises the other. Jean wants revenge for a lifetime serving “betters” whom — so he believes — he outstrips in enterprise and imagination. Miss Julie craves more or less equally the thrill of bringing him off his high horse and rolling around in the mud with him.

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Richard T. Jameson

2000 Eyes: Reindeer Games

[Written for Mr. Showbiz]

The kindest thing to say about Reindeer Games is that we shall certainly see far worse movies this year. The picture, a would-be thriller, is a mechanical exercise from the get-go, one that positively defies suspension of disbelief with each succeeding twist of a plot no one would ever hatch in real life. Yet within its trashy parameters the lumbering robot-beast does manage to drag itself to the finish line—several times, in fact—and in retrospect one realizes that even its most dubious quick-change reversals were planted in the early reels. That’s more coherence than we can find in a lot of contemporary movies, and for such minimal consolation we must learn to be grateful.

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Richard T. Jameson

2000 Eyes: What Planet Are You From?

[Written for Mr. Showbiz]

You’ve seen the ad: “To save his planet, an alien must find a woman on Earth to have his baby. There’s just one problem.” The accompanying image features a man’s tunic-clad torso, with hands resting near each other below waist level and a bent tulip dangling from his fingers, head terminally down. It’s droll, allusive, absurd, and elegant at the same time — a promise of good comedic fun from cable-TV comedy legend Garry Shandling and ace director-satirist Mike Nichols.

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Richard T. Jameson, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: Where the Money Is

[Written for Mr. Showbiz]

The old guy transferred from the state pen doesn’t move much and says less. Nothing at all, actually. He’s had a stroke. That’s why he’s slumped in a wheelchair in another mossy state facility, a geriatric sanitarium, instead of occupying a cell. But his nurse, Carol (Linda Fiorentino), can’t accept that there’s nothing going on inside Henry’s sagging body and unresponsive brain. For one thing, he’s a legendary felon who led the law a merry chase for thirty years — hiring on to banks as a security adviser, for instance, then emptying their vaults. For another — and this is what really counts — he’s played by Paul Newman, fergodsake, and we just know that when he makes his move it’ll be a good one.

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Richard T. Jameson, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: The Golden Bowl

[Written for Mr. Showbiz]

James Ivory, as a writer in the Cannes-Matin notes, has become a genre unto himself, and you couldn’t ask for a more thoroughgoing manifestation of that genre than The Golden Bowl. Adapted by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala from one of Henry James’s most intricate novels, mounted in exquisite European locations and handsomely photographed as ever by Tony Pierce-Roberts, this latest Merchant Ivory production will neither disappoint devotées nor persuade unbelievers to take an adjacent pew. In both cases, that’s because The Golden Bowl is more a Cliff’s Notes version of Henry James than the real thing (to coin a phrase).

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Richard T. Jameson, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: Vatel

[Written for Mr. Showbiz]

The 53rd Cannes Film Festival opened with a gala extravaganza whose selection struck many as prodigiously ironic — especially if they caught the flick at a morning press show, when Tom Stoppard’s high-flying dialogue and Ennio Morricone’s once-upon-a-time-in-the-17th-century music had to fight the noise from the drills and hammers readying the Palais for the postfilm Louis XIV–style blowout that evening. Here was a jaw-droppingly lavish movie about the jaw-droppingly lavish steps taken to keep “the Sun King” adequately wined, dined, and entertained over a three-day visit, late in April of 1671, to a country château whose owner, the Prince de Condé, couldn’t even afford to pay the local merchants. Moreover, it was the English-language film rendering of one of French history’s most peculiar episodes, with France’s premier incarnator of French national heroes, former bad boy Gérard Depardieu, gamely trading mots anglais with the likes of Uma Thurman, Tim Roth, and Timothy Spall. And if you’ve got room for one more dislocation, consider that Roland Joffé, the director honored with this opening-night selection, whiled away the ’90s cooking such turkeys as City of Joy, The Scarlet Letter, and the never-released Goodbye Lover.

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Richard T. Jameson, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: The Widow of Saint-Pierre

[Written for The Stranger]

In 1849, on Saint-Pierre, a French-ruled island off the Newfoundland coast, two sailors rescued from the thickest winter fog in memory celebrate their deliverance by getting drunk and killing a man as a kind of stupid prank. One is sentenced to die; the other isn’t but dies anyway through a stroke of dumb luck. The survivor, Neel Auguste, has to be kept alive through the following spring because, unlike in the old days, the authorities can’t just shoot him or hang him. The law demands death by guillotine — “the widow” — and the nearest one is far to the south, in Martinique.

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Richard T. Jameson, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: Trixie

[Written for Mr. Showbiz]

Alan Rudolph has long evinced a tolerance, even love, for fringies, oddballs, and occasionally the clinically deranged. Hence it’s no great surprise that he should have dreamed up so addlepated and pixilated a character as Trixie Zurbo, a low-rent rent-a-cop with aspirations of becoming a wisecracking private eye and sleuthing her way to “the truth, the hole in the truth, and nothing but the truth.” Nor should there be more than momentary amazement that he managed to snare Shakespearean-trained and twice-Oscar-nominated Emily Watson for the part. Despite having remained a proud fringie himself for his quarter-century writing-directing career, Rudolph has an unimpeachable record of sticking to his utterly singular, artistically adventurous guns, and he’s earned the love of actors for offering them richly idiosyncratic opportunities and then supporting them to the max.

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Richard T. Jameson, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: Film Noir (aka Koroshi)

[Written for Mr. Showbiz]

Given world enough and time, Jim Thompson the pulp Camus (The Getaway, After Dark My Sweet) would have got round to writing about a poor Thompsonian schlub in Hokkaido, in the snowy north of Japan. Meanwhile, the protagonist of Masahiro Kobayashi’s Film Noir will do. He lost his job a while ago but, instead of admitting it to his wife, has been leaving their nifty A-frame every morning and pretending to drive off to work. Real destination: a mini–Las Vegas at a nearby mall, where he sits all day playing pachinko and hoping to win enough to keep them afloat. One day the place is unexpectedly closed. As our hero sits in his car trying to decide what else to do with his life, a spooky loner appears out of nowhere and makes him an offer. Why not turn hitman? Here’s a guy’s picture, here’s a gun, here’s even a set of instructional videos to get you started….

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Richard T. Jameson, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: Time Code

[Written for Mr. Showbiz]

Some movies become milestones on the basis of quality; others, for being where they are when they are. Mike Figgis’s Time Code is assured of qualifying in the second category. As for the former, the outlook is dubious, but let’s be generous and say that time will tell.

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