By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
By Claire Lawton
By Kiernan Maletsky
By Anna Merlan
Bar Girls. Director Marita Giovanni's story of young, attractive lesbians in search of sex, love, and companionship isn't quite as polished and sharp as it could have been; some scenes give you more information than you needed and others don't give you nearly enough. But it's a hell of a lot of fun nonetheless. With its stylish, sometimes scatologically bitchy dialogue, it actually owes more to old Hollywood "women's pictures" like Three on a Match and All About Eve than to a contemporary arthouse excursion such as Go Fish, and the cast, comprised mostly of unknown actresses, is uniformly fine. (MZS) Marita Giovanni in attendance.
Short Stuff. See article "Gut punches" for more information.
South Central Los Angeles: Inside Voices. Documentarian Maxi Cohen gives this new feature its United States premiere. It's an intercut series of post-riot interviews with survivors from a number of different ethnic groups. Cohen in attendance.
Destiny Turns on the Radio. Not available for screening at press time, this road movie about an escaped convict (Dylan McDermott) traveling to Vegas to collect his share of a bank heist and reunite with his lost girlfriend features the debut of director Quentin Tarantino as a lead actor. He plays a mysterious radio DJ named Johnny Destiny whose machinations cause the hero to get hooked up with his ex-partner in crime (James LeGros) and confront a big-time crime boss. James LeGros in attendance.
Drawn from Memory. Animator Paul Fierlinger created and narrates this stylized account of his childhood during World War II, during which he was shuttled from city to city depending on where his father, a Czechoslovakian diplomat, was stationed at the time.
Understated and sweetly funny, the film manages to illuminate the shifting allegiances of a war-torn country (Fierlinger's father is uncertain whether to back Russia or America and keeps hedging his bets) and to recreate the enchanted but limited perspective of a very young child. The animator's simple line drawings, which shift perspective, texture, and color according to the narration's mood, are an understated pleasure. (MZS) Paul Fierlinger in attendance.
*Hell's Angel and Tracking Down Maggie. A double bill of British indignation. The first entry is a nonfiction essay about Mother Teresa by Vanity Fair columnist and globetrotting leftist gadfly Christopher Hitchens, who has always lent a certain relaxed urbanity to his tirades against political hypocrisy and the ravages of world power monopolies.
What in the world could Hitchens find to criticize about Mother Teresa, the Angel of Calcutta and advocate for the poor and wretched all over the world? Quite a lot, actually, as his half-hour first-person video essay Hell's Angel proves. Hitchens' acerbic observations cut deep, and he's out to draw blood from the hide of Mother Teresa, a woman he characterizes as a spotlight-hogging hypocrite who accepts awards from murderous dictators; ignores the atrocities committed by right-wing military regimes because she claims to be "apolitical," yet still campaigns tirelessly against abortion and contraception in nations where overpopulation kills thousands of children every year; and actively condemns the efforts of almost anyone, from moderate relief workers to left-wing activists, who wish to improve the economic plight of the poor.
The hard-line Roman Catholic philosophy that says suffering must be eased, not prevented, until the sufferers can graduate to their heavenly reward, has been bred deep in the bones of Teresa of Calcutta. But Hitchens goes so far as to question the woman's convictions, suggesting she enjoys her international celebrity so much she lets herself be used by America, England, and other Western nations to obscure their unofficial policies of apathy toward Third-World misery. Hell's Angel is one hell of a brave, thought-provoking ride. (JF)
In Tracking Down Maggie, British documentarian Nick Broomfield continues his bemused redefinition of gonzo journalism. His last movie, Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer, found our surrogate skeptic on the prowl throughout the American South, trying to secure interviews with America's only known female serial murderer and the people who knew her. As in Roger & Me, the film became progressively more hilarious, insightful, and unique the more apparent it became that Broomfield had a snowball's chance in hell of getting close to the truth of his subject.
His follow-up employs pretty much the same format. Broomfield, whose movies have the handmade, insightful, spontaneous feeling of personal essays, sets out to make a documentary about ex-British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her alleged influence peddling on behalf of her munitions-rich son, Mark, in international diplomatic circles. As he and his crew follow the Iron Lady across the United States during a book signing tour, the sad-eyed filmmaker finds himself on the receiving end of a seemingly endless series of rebuffs, flanking maneuvers, and strategic humiliations by Maggie's assorted minions, who have no use for any reporter who isn't awed into ass-kissing complacency by the former leader's supposed aura of greatness.
As in Aileen Wuornos, Broomfield ends up deconstructing his subject, his techniques, and himself as he goes along; the result is a marvelously informative movie about making movies, as well as a cautionary essay about the way the images of politicians are shaped and obscured by government agencies, PR flacks, and suck-up journalists. Without the benefit of many one-on-one interviews with significant people, Broomfield is once again forced to fall back on news clips, factoids, rumors, anecdotes, and reams of personal observations, and the end product is almost certainly more thought-provoking than it would have been if the filmmaker had been given everything he wanted at the start.
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