Volume 1, Number 40
|The Legend of 1900
(Dir: Giuseppe Tornatore, Starring Tim Roth, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Bill Nunn, Mélanie Thierry, Clarence Williams III, Peter Vaughan, Noriko Aida, Niall O'Brien, and Alberto Vazques)
BY: DAVID PERRY
I entered The Legend of 1900 expecting to defy the critical masses. Almost all of those critics whom I regularly read gave this film a marginally negative review. Still the idea intrigued me and the fact that it starred Tim Roth made me think that it was sure to be good. Next time, I'll try to listen to my occupational peers.
It is not that the film is terrible, it is just that it is not that good. In other words, I did not hate it, but I surely did not love it. The film is oozing with schmaltz, a sappy feeling that almost always gets me hating a film (just look at my still constant hatred for Patch Adams). Even the score from the normally secure Ennio Morricone (best known for the score to The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly) brims with coating. No matter how much I wanted to like the film, I could not get over its corniness. It is rare that I shall use such a word for a film, but this film is hokey.
1900 is a man that has never set foot on ground. He has literally spent his entire life on the Virginia, a ship that takes emigrants from Europe to America during the early years of the century. Found abandoned in the upper class dinner room, 1900 is taken in by an engineer (Nunn) in the ship, who gives the child a name, something like Danny Boodman T.D. 1900 (the last part because the child is found on the first day of the century. After growing up on the ship, 1900 finds his place as the ships pianist, a position that brings him a small amount of fame. This role causes him to meet and befriend Max (Vince), the man who narrates the story some twenty years after the fact.
There are some high points to the film, most
notably the great direction from Tornatore (Cinema Paradiso) and cinematography
from Lajos Koltai (Wrestling Ernest Hemingway). The look of the film, with
a few exceptions, is mesmerizing, with camerawork that made me reminiscent of the great
years of Merchant-Ivory. Roth gives a great performance, one of the most understated
of the year. On the other hand, Vince gives a poor performance, chewing up the
scenery at every chance (though the ultimate over actor of the film was Williams
III). I hate to say this if it is some medical condition, but it irks me when the
camera is on Vince and his eyes are not on one point, they just constantly move
around. I did think that the film worked on a visual sense, but rarely does it grab
the viewer anywhere else. The story is hackneyed and the follow through seems lost.
I think that Tornatore was sure of himself when directing the film, but it seems like he
spent little time on his shared screenplay, allowing it to become more sappy than Cinema
Paradiso, and that is quite an achievement.
|Breakfast of Champions
(Dir: Alan Rudolph, Starring Bruce Willis, Albert Finney, Nick Nolte, Barbara Hershey, Glenne Headly, Lukas Haas, Omar Epps, Buck Henry, Vicki Lewis, Ken Campbell, Jake Johannsen, and Owen Wilson)
BY: DAVID PERRY
Breakfast of Champions is one of those rather insane comedies that could find hatred from most, but could also be liked by few. I guess that I fall in that few, seeing that most of the critics have already stated their dislike for the film. I guess it is yet another Goodbye, Lover and Drop Dead Gorgeous for me. First of all I must say that I had no prior introduction to this work, a debit to the film I have heard stated from many print reviews. In fact I did not even know anything about the well known Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. novel was about. Maybe that is a reason that the film worked to me. Its neo-political feel (the 'neo' there seems weird since it is a novel from the seventies) worked with me because of Rudolph's choice of directorial style. Most critics have called it too stylistic, a title I think is a merit to the film. The moral of the story is encompassed in a hellish environment, a fact which calls for the film to be directed in a style that could never be seen as heavenly.
The film revolves around Dwayne Hoover (Willis), a car salesman in the fictitious Midland City who has literally smeared himself all over the television via TV commercials for his dealership. The image he has produced of himself is now starting to haunt him, the omnipresent mirror of the television and the radio and the billboards is making him a wreck. He cannot stand himself. Everyone else adores him, but he would rather be dead. His life is filled with misfits of fortune, with the only stable person being his on again off again mistress/secretary (Headly). His wife (Hershey) is schizophrenic, his son (Haas) is an aspiring lounge singer called Bunny, his sales manager (Nolte) is a depressed sex maniac who dresses in women's clothing, and his biggest fan (Epps) is an ex-con named Wayne Hoobler. The only thing that Dwayne sees as sanctuary is Kilgore Trout (Finney), a seemingly underapreciated author of science fiction stories in pornographic magazines. Trout has been chosen as the key-note speaker at the city's up coming arts festival and he sets out from New York to make it to Midland City without spending the thousand dollars sent to him for transportation. All Dwayne has to do, in his own mind, is wait until Trout comes, at which time his life will become understandable.
The film is a chaotic mess, but a likable chaotic
mess. Sure half of the comedy falls flat, but there is more perfection in the story
than the shoddy dialogue can successfully hurt. I thought that the entire cast works
well, especially Finney who is more likable as a crazed old man than he ever was as Tom
Jones. I think that Rudolph puts forth a very good try with some pretty tough
material. I must admit that the ending is rather poor and the whole film seems
messed-up, but I'm still giving it a recommendation (hey, at least they knew where to draw
the line on surreal filmmaking with such a story, a lesson Terry Gilliam needed to learn
when making Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas).
|Relax... It's Just Sex
(Dir: P.J. Castellaneta, Starring Jennifer Tilly, Mitchell Anderson, Cynda Williams, Serena Scott Thomas, Lori Petty, Eddie Garcia, Timothy Paul Perrez, Gibbs Toldsdorf, Chris Cleveland, and Terrence 'T.C.' Carson)
BY: DAVID PERRY
Relax ... It's Just Sex is yet another over hormonal gay comedy that your humble narrator has been forced to sit through. The only thing that makes this any different from Edge of Seventeen and Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss is that it had a big name in it (of course, so did trick, where Tori Spelling is a bigger name than Jennifer Tilly). Thank heavens my year of seeing everything that opened is almost to a close, because my mental ability to view such horrendous films that are pure genre pieces is beyond its capacity. I find it pretty unnerving to sit through something like trick or Edge of Seventeen, even more so when the film is as bad as Relax ... It's Just Sex is. It tries to be a character driven film, much like Singles, just with one straight couple, one lesbian couple, one gay couple, and another gay couple, and, what do you know, another gay couple. Guess who this film was made for.
The film is merely about that which happens to some friends, all brought together by a straight friend in marital turmoil (Tilly). Her problem with her wannabe jet-set husband (Perrez) is just what each one of these confidantes need to bring out all their emotions. Two women, who had been in a nine year relationship, break apart, leaving one of them (Williams) in the arms of their butch friend (Petty), the other (Thomas) in the arms of a man. On the other side of the homosexual spectrum, there is the happy gym-set couple (Cleveland and Toldsdorf), who moan and groan (trust me, no pun intended) to every one else about their lack of morality (of course their first scene is none other than a sex scene, full with derrières, orgasms, and grocery lists). Along with these two are three others that are all rather unhappy. One is still mourning the death of his previous boyfriend (Carson), one is mourning over the lack of finding the 'right' boyfriend (Anderson), and one is mourning over the recent contraction of HIV (Garcia).
The film is a rather sad mess. It is stupid,
unfunny, and disturbing. I did not once care for these characters, all of whom I'd
be happy to just be killed off, so that the film would end earlier. The only reason
that I'm giving the film a nice D- rating instead of a F is because I remember laughing
once in the entire film. It is pretty sad when the saving grace of an entire film is
in an unmemorable piece of dialogue.