October 15, 1999 |
Nikita Mikhalkov's Burnt by the Sun (1994) was made four decades after the death of Joseph Stalin and five years after the end of the Cold War. The first Russian appraisal of the real dimensions of Stalin's tyranny may have been a long time coming, but it was well worth the wait. Mikhalkov's profoundly moving work, which won the Oscar for best foreign film, is a piece that shuns both polemic and melodrama. The director took the lead as Sergei Kotov, a hero of the Bolshevik revolution who is to learn the painful lesson that past victories will not prevent him from becoming a victim of the new order.
December 24, 1989 |
When Jean-Jacques Annaud filmed The Bear in the Bavarian Alps, there was a small army of trainers, veterinarians and other specialists at the location to ensure the safety of the dozens of animals that appear in the movie. Apart from the obvious humanitarian reasons for such precautions, Annaud pointed out that he would look pretty foolish making a film that was such an eloquent plea for the rights of animals if any of his four-legged actors got hurt. In this attitude, Annaud has a lot of company, and that's why you are likely to hear animal-rights activists calling for the hide of Michael Moore when his superb documentary Roger & Me opens nationally next month.
April 7, 1987 |
There was one moment when it all became clear for Lizzie Borden. For months, she had been hanging around high-class brothels to research her film "Working Girls" (now playing at the TLA). She had learned the professional lingo: "working" for being a prostitute, "girls" for the prostitutes themselves, "seeing" for the act of servicing the customers. She found out about many of the arcane procedures of the trade - the finances, the relationships with the madames, the health and security measures.
June 10, 1988 |
On paper, "The Presidio" must have sounded great. Think of it: team two hot properties, Mark Harmon and Sean Connery (especially hot now that he's an Oscar winner), in a hot genre, the mismatched cop picture. Throw in a love interest in the person of Meg Ryan, sign up an experienced action director, Peter Hyams, and set it all in the eminently picturesque locale of San Francisco. On film, "The Presidio" stinks. Well, maybe "stinks" isn't the right word. This film is too bland and predictable to emit any smell at all. The Presidio is a large military base within the 'Frisco city limits.
February 15, 1990 |
The Indian government has reversed itself and tentatively agreed to allow a British crew to film a controversial movie adaptation of the best-selling novel The City of Joy in Calcutta. Before getting approval, however, the production company was required to hire Sunil Gangopadhyaya, a well-known Indian writer, to serve as script consultant. According to P. Upendra, Indian minister for information and broadcasting, the script will be revised with Gangopadhyaya's help so that "no portion would offend the sentiments of the people of Calcutta.
September 6, 1994 |
From the moment he heard that "Next Generation" would warp from television to the silver screen, Patrick Stewart believed "Generations" should be a transitional film involving as many original "Trek" cast members as possible. Unfortunately, "Next Gen's" formidable Captain Picard was pretty much alone in his thinking. "A lot of my colleagues didn't share this point of view," the actor said during a phone conversation from the Manhattan set of "Jeffrey," his newest film. But that didn't stop Stewart from lobbying the producers.
March 26, 1992 |
Get ready to roll those tumblin' dice and earn some satisfaction. The super-sized, 90-minute-long "Rolling Stones at the MAX" concert film will be rocking in Philadelphia after all, officially opening May 21 at the Franklin Institute's Tuttleman Omniverse Theater after two weeks of previews. Shot in the wraparound, 70mm IMAX film process during the 1990 European run of the Stones' "Steel Wheels" concert, the $10 million production offers an intense, larger-than-life perspective to their show.
March 23, 1988 |
Louis Malle's Au revoir, les enfants (Goodbye, Children) begins and ends with a farewell. At the outset - in a platform scene replayed in World War II by countless sundered families and parted lovers - a mother puts her deeply unhappy 12- year-old son aboard the train that will take him from Paris to the safety of a provincial boarding school. By the time that Au revoir, les enfants reaches its heartbreaking last goodbye, we understand that this is a journey that has actually lasted 40 years for Louis Malle.
June 21, 1986 |
In one of the most chilling scenes in the landmark Holocaust documentary Shoah, Claude Lanzmann interviewed a group of now-aging Polish farmers who had plowed their fields up to the barbed wire of the concentration camp at Treblinka. The intervening years had done nothing to diminish their almost jovial anti-Semitism. Lanzmann's incomparable and monumental film went beyond the victims and their Nazi persecutors to ask some very pertinent questions of the bystanders. Namely, what - if anything - did you do while your neighbors were being loaded onto the trains?
March 27, 1990 |
Every so often, like shooting stars, a few Oscars tumble from the firmament of Hollywood's glib production values and huge salaries onto small pictures and their unpretentious casts. Last night, such awards fell to Daniel Day-Lewis and Brenda Fricker for their exquisite performances in the Irish import "My Left Foot," and the two lit up the sky briefly with their open surprise at being chosen best actor and best supporting actress. Those categories usually belong to America's rhinestone royalty, those insta-faces who show up on "Entertainment Tonight" and in the supermarket tabloids, whose bodies are draped in finely cut evening clothes from only the best designers.