By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
By Claire Lawton
By Kiernan Maletsky
By Anna Merlan
*Mishima. (1987) Writer-director Paul Schrader's elliptical, eerie retelling of the life of controversial Japanese novelist Yukio Mishima. See article "Magnificent Obsession" for more on Schrader. Paul Schrader in attendance.
Search and Destroy. Not available for screening at press time, Dennis Hopper's latest foray behind the camera is about a businessman on the verge of bankruptcy (Griffin Dunne) who believes he can save himself by making a movie from a book written by a famous self-help guru (Hopper). With Christopher Walken, John Turturro, and Ethan Hawke. Dennis Hopper in attendance.
Stealin' Home. The heroine of this new film from Dallas-based writer-director John Carstarphen has a serious problem: following a nasty breakup with her boy-friend, she returns home one day to discover that nearly everything she owns has been stolen, and that the dastardly dog that did it is selling her possessions all over town.
As she goes about her daily life, vainly struggling to recover from this setback, she keeps running into familiar knickknacks and pieces of furniture at the homes of various friends and acquaintances--infuriating proof that her ill-fated relationship was a gift that keeps on taking.
Shot in 16mm black-and-white and stocked with a cast of talented local performers, this frenetic, funky, upbeat piece of African-Americana has some of the same charm that made She's Gotta Have It a breakout success. It's paced a bit unevenly, some of the subplots aren't developed satisfactorily, and the low budget definitely shows, but Carstarphen and his collaborators have approached their subject with such enthusiasm that even doubters will probably be won over.
The film also functions as an unabashed star vehicle for lead actress Phyllis Cicero, a true screen gem who has Angela Bassett's wiry frame, Alfre Woodard's bullshit-detecting eyes, Bette Midler's gift of fury, and Jamie Lee Curtis' Swiss-watch slapstick timing. Her tough, sweet, sexy performance turbocharges every frame she occupies. She could sit in a chair reading TV Guide for two hours and still make me laugh my ass off. (MZS) John Carstarphen, producer Rebecca Rice, and cast members in attendance.
*Black Is, Black Ain't. Premiered at last year's Dallas Video Festival, Black Is, Black Ain't is the last film of the late video director Marlon Riggs (Tongues Untied, Color Adjustment). Completed by associates after AIDS took his life in 1993, this is Riggs' most ambitious and courageous work, a terse, confident video essay that lifts the robes of the civil rights movement and invites us to peek at the wounds underneath.
Black Is, Black Ain't starts with a simple goal in mind--a call for the African-American community to stop emphasizing Anglo racism and start dialoguing about the internal sexism, homophobia, skin-color prejudice, and bitter class conflicts which reign, for the most part, unremarked upon by African-American leaders. Using (thankfully) less poetry this time out but a standard combination of talking heads and famous quotes, Riggs guides the viewer through a series of conflicting opinions about the role of history, identity, and gender in black life. Resolving them, Riggs knows, is not only impossible, it's counterproductive. Social progress happens when forces oppose each other and establish common ground.
But it's the refusal among many African-Americans to acknowledge any problems not associated with institutionalized Anglo racism, Riggs implies, that has stymied their political and economic development. With the current debate over whether the NAACP should be abolished and Civil Rights-era dependence on government programs overhauled, Riggs proved himself a prophet once again, although his homosexuality will likely resign him to the fringes of black culture in death as in life. Black Is, Black Ain't maneuvers deftly between the personal and the political, including scenes from the rural Louisiana of Riggs' youth, as well as taped commentary from his death bed. (JF)
Crucero/Crossroads and The Novice. In Crucero/Crossroads, director Ramiro Puerta and performer-writer Guillermo Verdecchia have successfully adapted a stage effort to film, creating a comical exploration of one of America's favorite pastimes: "Where do you fit in?"
Verdecchia and his various alter egos (including creations named Fechundo, "The Barrio Tiger," and Wideload McKenna) muse their way through 28 minutes of border zone survival, chasing themselves through the identity-splitting experiences of Latino life both in America and abroad. Everywhere is nowhere as Chicanos, Puerto Ricans, Latinos, Panamanians, and Mexicans are melded into the same stereotypical identity.
Along the way, Verdecchia offers some amusing observations about "Saxons," the Wideload character's term for Anglos around the globe. "I like going down to the clubs and watching you dance," he proclaims. "You guys are so free. Nothing gets in your way...not the beat...not the rhythm...nothing!"
In The Novice, director Judy Hecht Dumontet has crafted an almost complete tale of a novice nun, Teresa, and her scandalous illegitimacy that stirs a small town; I say "almost complete" because Dumontete's story begins in the middle, leaving the viewer to discover the ideas and realities of the plot. Teresa's mother goes to her grave asserting that her daughter's child was fathered by the Holy Spirit; after her death, her daughter seeks the solace of a life in the convent and after many years is conditionally accepted into the order.
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