Fall 2000

Sep 14  The Filth and the Fury
Sep 21  Joe Gould's Secret
Sep 28  Not One Less
Oct 5  Chuck & Buck
Oct 12  Judy Berlin
Oct 19  Violet
Oct 26  East/West
Nov 2  Color of Paradise
Nov 9  Bossa Nova
Nov 16  Saving Grace
Nov 23  Shower
Nov 30  The Terrorist
Dec 7  The Tao of Steve

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[IMDb] Follow the links to the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) for more information about the films.

September 14   The Filth and the Fury (USA/UK 2000) 108 mins.
[IMDb] Rated R, as you would expect. [IMAGE]
Directed by Julien Temple.
Profs: do your students appear to have more stud piercings than St. Sabastien? Students, do alarm bells go off louder than air raid sirens when you walk through airport security checks? If you are wondering why we are still interested in checking out the punk 'movement' then just look around. The legacy of this anarchic cultural phenomenon is still with us, however tamed by the fashion demands of late capitalism. Director Temple had already scored on the subject with his wonderful documentary, The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle (1980) which featured Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren's account of how he created the notorious unfab four. In this update, the boys themselves get to tell their side of the story. Johnny Rotten, Steve Cook, Paul Jones and even the late Sid 'My Way' Vicious go a fair distance to explaining an important slice of social history. Temple well animates the message of punk, repeatedly returning to the source of all that seventies rage: the British class system, the Queen, and even well beyond her to Richard III. One critic refers to The Filth and the Fury as 'nipple clamps for the brain.' Uh, perhaps you might want to wear a hat. A film about the career of the notorious punk rock band, the Sex Pistols.

September 21   Joe Gould's Secret (US 2000) 104 mins.
[IMDb] Rated R. [IMAGE]
Directed by Stanley 'Big Night' Tucci.
With Ian Holm and Stanley Tucci. Written by Howard A. Rodman.
Based on "Professor Seagull" and "Joe Gould's Secret" by Joseph Mitchell. This small low-budget picture actually opened the Sundance Film Festival this year, a gesture underscoring the importance of the writer's craft above all else. Indeed, this is a film about words, and the characters who can make them important. Based on a true story, Tucci stars as the New Yorker writer (Mitchell) who stumbled upon a street tramp (Holm as Gould) proclaiming he was producing an oral history of -- everything. Most of us have heard similar rants down at the Ship, but Gould actually claimed he had transcribed enough conversations to add up to a whopping 1.2 million words. Mitchell suspended his belief and tried to publicize Gould's achievement, but, in fact, he never did see the actual document. The New York of the fifties is evoked realistically here, as is the urgency of Gould's littlest hobo rants and roars. As Gould, Ian Holm is up to his predictable brilliance, becoming the character as naturally as stepping in urban garbage. Tucci wears great clothes but his direction reminds us that he's more than a good-looking character actor.

September 28   Not One Less (China 2000) 106 mins.
[IMDb] aka Yi ge dou bu neng shao [IMAGE]
Directed by Yimou Zhang.
Starring Wei Minzhi, Gao Enman.
Very popular on the mainland right now, and we don't mean mainland China. You might remember Zhang's amazing nineties films starring the gorgeous Gong Li--Raise the Red Lantern, Ju Dou and Shanghai Triad. The couple broke up and Zhang is trying to survive. Not One Less, although as unflattering to Beijing as any of his other films, will probably help pay the bills. The film is about Wei, a 13 year-old girl who is sent to look after a rabble of wild schoolchildren in the provinces. Resources are so limited that chalk is a luxury. The challenge for young Wei is to keep all her charges in school. She earns a bonus if she does. The poor kids generally leave school to go to work and help their families, however, so she has her work cut out for her, generating both hilarity and sorrow. Typical of Zhang's films, there isn't much action, but we get to peek deep inside a society to which even special visas won't give access. It is worth noting that the cast consists entirely of non-professionals who use their own names and portray characters from their own walks of life. That fact raises the realism of this feature drama by many bonus points, and makes for especially compelling viewing.

October 5   Chuck & Buck (USA 2000) 95 mins.
[IMDb] Rated R for sexuality and language. [IMAGE]
Directed by Miguel Arteta.
With Mike White and Chris Weitz.
Perhaps the most widely known feature on our series this fall, Chuck & Buck has been hugely popular. Shot in what is becoming an art-house trend--quick digital on-the-fly style--this movie is pretty daring in its attempt to out the hidden theme of childhood sexuality. The story centres on two childhood best friends who reunite when they are 27. Chuck, who is now a Charlie, has matured into the stereotypical L.A. record producer, complete with trophy girlfriend and cool buddies who have wandered off from Peter Fonda's party in The Limey. Buck is still Buck, oddly undeveloped and never really having grown up. When they meet up again, Buck insists on reclaiming their youthful intimacy, literally. His actions are at once natural and perverse, depending on whether or not you want to give him the benefit of his doubts about the pleasures of the adult world. The movie is by turns hilarious and disturbing, pressing buttons we might not have admitted we had. It cracks open some questions about sexual identities and natural desires, and forces us to wonder about the degree to which Buck reminds us of who we see in the mirror. Highly recommended, but not if you think Anne of Green Gables is the ultimate expression of childhood fantasies.

October 12   Judy Berlin (USA 1999) 93 mins.
[IMDb] Directed by Eric Mendolsohn.
With the incomparable Sopranos star, Edie `whatzamatterwityou' Falco, Aaron Harnick, and Madelaine Kahn (in her last film role).
Set in the predominantly NY Jewish suburb of Babylon, the movie begins with failed filmmaker David (Harnick) being tossed out of his house by his mother (Kahn). He then runs into old classmate, Judy (Falco), an aspiring and possibly terrible actress. Therein lies the premise for a tired film about two losers. But something happens, what you might call a sign and wonder. A solar eclipse occurs and lasts all day, casting everyone pretty well into darkness. Groping about, the characters nonetheless find moments of illumination. This first-feature by Mendelsohn shows his experience as a designer on several Woody Allen movies. In fact, he shot some of it out of his own parents' Long Island house. If there is an influence it is the later Woody Allen, who often makes small comedies about minor changes in the lives of ordinary people. An ensemble cast helps propel the cast and its wit, and a light confident touch transforms the suburbs into an enchanted daydream. Mendelsohn won the Best Director Award at Sundance for this charmer, so come see why.

October 19   Violet (Newfoundland première) 111 mins.
[IMDb] St. John's International Women's Film and Video Festival.
Directed by Rosemary House and produced by Mary `cell phone' Sexton.
Starring Mary Walsh, Bernie Stapleton, Brian Hennessey, Andrew Younghusband, Janice Spence, Jody Richardson, and an esemble cast featuring almost everyone you have ever seen or performed at the Ship.
Set among the verdant lawns of Mt. Scio, the story centres on Walsh as a librarian who returns home when her brother (Rick Boland) suddenly dies, the victim of both his drunken folly and an old family curse. Neurotic about her own mortality, which is aggravated by her middle-aged angst, Violet's nervous psyche actively resists the friends and family members who try to help. House directs with Italy on her brain, morphing this emerald isle into a beautiful site of possibility as charmed as any enchanted summer. You will recognize the look and feel of European romance here, appropriate enough since Walsh's Violet yearns to recapture the freedom and sensuality she once experienced in Tuscan climes. Performances are strong, with some standout acting especially from Hennessey and Younghusband, whose mugs you never want off the screen. The title role seems to have been written for Walsh, however, who flashes us bits of Marge Delahunty and that spear-waving breast-plated warrior princess thing she does. Ultimately, though, Walsh invents the entirely new character of Violet, a smart and feeling woman as far removed from donut-shop Connie as tin-bits are from savory.

October 26   East/West (France 1999) 120 mins.
[IMDb] aka Est/Ouest. English subtitles. [IMAGE]
Directed by Regis Wargnier.
With Catherine Deneuve, Oleg Menchikov, Sandrine Bonnaire.
"If you want to have a clear picture of how the daily life under Stalin's USSR was, you must see this great movie." Of course, if not, you can always watch Rocky and Bullwinkle. Wargnier did the marvelous Indochine with Deneuve, so you will recognize the style and sweep of cinematic history here. The story opens at the end of WW II, when a Russian émigré doctor named Alexei (Menchikov) takes up Stalin's offer to return and rebuild the motherland. He comes back with his French wife, Marie, and their boy to discover he's wandered into a pre-Potemkin nightmare. Stunned and disoriented by the brutality of Stalin's Russia, the couple starts to disintegrate. Forced to act loyal and submissive, Alexei does whatever it takes to stay in official favour, even sleeping with every Soviet uniform he can. Marie, meanwhile, cannot tolerate that colluding game. She comes from the West and refuses to understand the codes of a country she loathes. Many plot manipulations ensue, as the film builds to the intensity of a possible escape. Certainly director Wargnier knows how to jerk us around so that we are carried into over-the-top emotional pitches, the stuff on which movie plots thrive. Destined to have lost the Best Foreign Film Oscar to the magnificent All About My Mother, East-West nonetheless resonates in the light of post-Soviet Russia and all its attendant troubles. Worth the price just to gawk at Deneuve herself, playing a liberating lefty with great Yves St Laurent make-up.

November 2   Color of Paradise (Iran 1999) 90 mins.
[IMDb] aka Rang-e khoda. In Farsi with English subtitles. [IMAGE]
Directed by Majid Majidi.
With Mohsen Ramezani, Hosein Mahjoob.
We have been waiting for this one, our first Iranian feature, and one of apparently many brilliant Iranian efforts. An eight-year old blind boy learns Braille. Eager to read everything, including nature's rifts and bumps, the child is utterly passionate about life's sensual pleasures. We are privileged to see the exquisite countryside denied the boy, but he experiences the world with more intense interest than most of us are capable with the aid of mind-altering substances. The Color of Paradise won the top prizes at the Montreal Film Festival last year, blowing everyone away with its lucid message about cultural prejudices and religious constraints. When Mohammad's father worries that having a disabled boy will harm his chances to marry well, he sends him away to work for a blind carpenter. We might very well end up asking who is really blind here. The cinematography is breath taking, the acting natural, and the parable both persuasive and profound. Iran might become a new tourist destination if this keeps up.

November 9   Bossa Nova (Brazil/USA 1999) 95 mins.
Directed by Bruno Barreto.
Starring Amy Irving, Antonio Fagundes.
Written by Alexandre Machado, Fernanda Young.
What better way to banish the dark morbidity of November than to fly to Rio de Janeiro, cinematically speaking. Bossa Nova is a romantic comedy with agreeable film-tourist scenery and a light whimsical touch. Here's another ensemble cast with hip-swaying music, the ingredients for an entertaining escape. Amy 'I Used to be Mrs. Spielberg' Irving plays Miss Simpson, a widow teaching English in Rio. Antonio Fagundes is the handsome lawyer named Pedro who has been tossed out of domesticity by his fickle wife. Pedro's father works in the building where Simpson teaches, so he gets to check her out on the elevator. Other characters searching for love and meaning come and go and swirl around the central romantic couple. You can imagine the beginnings of a Latin sit-com, to be sure, but the film is truly funny, without the help of a laugh track. Even Amy Irving's perm-tight curls seem to relax a little under the spell of Brazilian charm. Antonio Fagundes has been dubbed the Cary Grant of his national cinema, a drop-dead title if there ever were one. Irving is actually now married to director Barreto, so she gets almost as much camera time as Rio itself. The city never looked more stunning, so if you are looking for documentary realism and shots of rampant street crime you've come to the wrong studio.

November 16   Saving Grace (UK 2000) 92 mins.
Directed by Nigel Cole.
With Brenda Blethyn, Craig Ferguson.
This hilarious British comedy in the best of the tradition opens with a familiar angle. Grace (Blethyn) discovers that her newly widowed state has left her with a tonne of bills and no possible way of avoiding bankruptcy. The last to know her husband was a squandering jerk, Grace innocently chats up her trusted gardener, Matthew. Still holding on to her magnificent Cornish garden herself, Grace offers to help Matthew's struggling marijuana plants and opens up her greenhouse into what turns out to be an astonishingly lucrative business operation. Now consider the comic possibilities: a village right out of Trollope, more eccentrics than ever stayed at Fawlty Towers, and a patch of home-grown weed. The juxtapositions could fuel enough laughs for even the most unstoned audiences. Consider the potential when a linen-suited Grace goes into London to do some deals amid the rough-and-tumble dealers of the City, or when some old Cornish biddies do the unthinkable and inhale. Saving Grace is funny and charming, an optimistic boost for the supporters of decriminalized marijuana and a sign of happy times to come.

November 23   Shower (China 1999) 92 mins.
[IMDb] aka Xizhao. English subtitles. PG-13 for language and nudity. [IMAGE]
Directed by Yang Zhang.
Starring Jiang Wu, Pu Cun Xin.
Another Chinese feature but unlike Not One Less, Shower was produced with private money, that of an ex-pat American who invested on faith and promise. The result is something like the first Chinese version of an indie film. As the title suggests, the setting of the film is the Chinese bathhouse, where friends and neighbors commonly retreat to bond and to restore their weary bodies and anxious minds. Enterprising new-China businessman Da Ming seeks his fortune in Beijing. Running on the experience of his rural family's bathhouse operation, he contrives to set up a modern version, a coin-operated robo-shower. You can imagine the plot from here. In severing his traditional ways, Da Ming has bought into a coldly impersonal new attitude, more or less the way Pip did in Great Expectations, but without the benefactor. When he is forced to return home to the equivalent of the Grange, Da Ming starts to remember what he loved about the old bathhouse, which, predictably, is slated to be torn down to make room for something more high-tech and functional (Disneyland?). Clearly Shower is about the rapid pace of modernization in China, where everyone wants to make money quick quick quick. The film promotes reflection about the consequences of showering over bathing, a timely metaphor that probably applies almost anywhere.

November 30   The Terrorist (India 1998) 96 mins.
[IMDb] aka Malli. English subtitles. [IMAGE]
Directed by Santosh Sivan.
Starring Ayesha Dharkar, Vishnu Vardhan, Bhanu Prakash, K. Krishna and Sonu Sisup.
John Malkovich presents this film: "I first saw The Terrorist in November 1998 while I was a member of the jury at the Cairo Film Festival. I was stunned by the simplicity and elegance of its images, and by the assuredness and power of its storytelling. Shot with minimal resources, The Terrorist is a testament to the notion that all that's truly needed to make a wonderful film is a story worth telling and a poet at the helm." Who are we to argue with the guy in whose brain everyone wants to be? Bless John Malkovich. This unforgettable film needs to be seen. The 1992 assassination of Rajiv Ghandi obviously drives the film's engines, yet the actual details of the assassination are never mentioned. A gorgeous 19-year-old girl named Malli, raised as a revolutionary, offers to become a suicide bomber. But Malli starts to see the world differently during her final days of preparation. Her programmed ideological intensity begins to yield to a burgeoning sense of self, to a new awareness, and to the beauty of the world itself. What once seemed like easy answers become challenging new questions. So it is as youth and its absolutes pass into a more complex reality. The poetry of which Malkovitch speaks is painted on every frame, as director Sivan unveils an India we haven't seen since the likes of the great Satyajit Ray.

December 7   The Tao of Steve [IMDb] Rated R for language and some drug use. [IMAGE]
Directed by Jenniphr Goodman.
With Donal Logue, Greer Goodman, James Wills, et al.
We scored. This final showing of the series is everyone's favourite. It's about a slob of a guy named Dex who is overweight and your mother's nightmare. But Dex, unambitious as he is, a full-time kindergarten teacher and a visual loser, discovers a woman who steers him correctly in the direction of horny fulfillment. The answer to the question --how does Dex get so much sex?-- is practice practice practice, but practice your Zen, that is. Dex understands what women want. A guy who knows that, even a fat boor whose idea of dressing up is putting on a bathrobe, holds a key to the universe. Why Steve? Because of Steve McQueen, the god of cool, not to mention Steve McGarrett and Steve Austin. The film won the Best Picture award at this year's Sundance Festival. It's long on charm, character, and wit. Plan your exam schedule around this fabulous comedy. You'll learn something.