Film Reviews

USA Film Festival

Page 4 of 8

Short Film and Video Winners. For the 18th time, the USA Film Festival presents its National Short Film and Video Competition awards, selected by a special jury. Winning shorts and videos not available for review.

* Cadillac Ranch. Three estranged sisters (Suzy Amis, Caroleen Feeney, and Renee Humphrey) find themselves abandoned by a criminal father only to be reunited with him in his waning years. His parting gift to them is a host of trouble in the form of a corrupt former lawman (Christopher Lloyd). A silly, juvenile chase ensues, as the girls traverse the Texas landscape while searching for their father's hidden riches. Cadillac Ranch borrows from 1995's Boys on the Side--as well as many other clichs--on the way to daddy's gold, but it's still Texas. Somehow, that fact and the attractive cast make up for all of Cadillac Ranch's whining, poetic misdeeds, pseudo-psychological and -sexual situations, and that busty woman who thinks she's still in fourth grade. (JM)

7 p.m.
The Lost Garden: The Life and Cinema of Alice Guy-Blache. Another in the Festival's "Cinema on Film" series, this hourlong documentary by French-Canadian filmmaker Marquise LePage traces the all-but-buried contributions of Alice Guy-Blache, who at the turn of the century was not only the first woman writer-director in cinema history, but very likely the first individual to record a story: Her first film, The Cabbage Fairy, was a fantasy about childbirth that sold 80 copies. Narrated by Guy-Blache's granddaughter, The Lost Garden is tender, eloquent, but adamant about Guy-Blache's blazing trail, later walked by the likes of Leni Riefenstahl, Ida Lupino, and Dorothy Arzner. (JF)

* Who is Henry Jaglom? A documentary about the willful underground filmmaker. See Jimmy Fowler's review, "Basket-case studies." Jerry Workman and Alex Rubin in attendance.

7:15 p.m.
Nightjohn. The latest drama from acclaimed director Charles Burnett, about a slave child who learns to read. See James Mardis' review, "Bitter roots." Charles Burnett in attendance.

Ruta Wakening. Several tales of love, lust, betrayal, and employment overlap at an Austin coffeehouse. Not available for review. Director Steve Bilich in attendance.

7:30 p.m.
* The Typewriter, the Rifle, and the Movie Camera. A documentary about Samuel Fuller, who made some of the toughest films Hollywood ever saw. See Jimmy Fowler's review, "Basket-case studies." Screened with the Samuel Fuller-directed feature China Gate, about an attack on Communist munitions dumps in Indochina, which stars Angie Dickinson and Gene Barry. Adam Simon in attendance.

9:15 p.m.
* Hate (La Haine). A French film that follows 24 violent hours in the lives of three friends. See Arnold Wayne Jones' review, "Intolerance."

9:20 p.m.
Sleepover. This no-budget feature looks at adolescence, dispensing with the usual "teen movie" cliches. Not available for review. Director John Sullivan and producer Jim McNally in attendance.

Monday, April 22
7 p.m.
Bandwagon. A comedy-music road movie about a North Carolina band on its first tour. Not available for review. Director John Schulz in attendance.

Last Summer in the Hamptons. Before you see the newest comedy-drama-confessional by self-proclaimed "male lesbian" Henry Jaglom, attend the April 21, 7 p.m. screening of the documentary profile, Who Is Henry Jaglom? That will help the uninitiated decide whether the 50ish Jaglom is a male-feminist pioneer who preserves the secrets of American women's lives, or a jive-talking poseur with a desperate need to control. Last Summer in the Hamptons features a cast of dozens, all of whom gather for a summer at the Long Island country home of a New York theatrical legend (Viveca Lindfors, who died after filming last year). In its mixture of interfamily sexual escapades and ceremonial tensions, the film suggests a bohemian version of Robert Altman's A Wedding. The screen magnetism of stage legend and '40s film star Viveca Lindfors--all square jaw, excitable eyes, and shock of snow-white hair--has not dimmed a bit, although director Jaglom records the performance not as a character study but more as a bull session from a legendary theatrical mind. Her role is entertaining either way. Gay playwright Jon Robin Baitz (The Substance of Fire) pops up as a playwright with shy Woody Allen mannerisms. Jaglom is a joy or a torture, depending on what you expect a movie to deliver. (JF)

7:15 p.m.
Men of Reenaction. This routine documentary on Civil War reenactors seems almost formless, never rising much above what you might expect by turning a camera on at any event and having people talk into it. The film works best when its director, Jessica Yu, portrays the drama and theatricality of the weekend warriors in Confederate and Union garb as they storm the fields, march in unison, or talk about how acting the part of a soldier sometimes transports them. But Yu's silence, her not commenting directly on the activities--there is no narration, only interviews with the participants--imprints her seeming skepticism on the motivations of these people. There's a frustrating sense that Yu has oversimplified the deeper motivations of some of the people who enjoy reenacting, or at least relegated them to the background in favor of the odd radicals on whom she chooses to concentrate. Men of Reenaction is the documentary from Yu not to see at the Festival; opt instead for her exquisite piece among the "Short Stuff II" compilation, Breathing Lessons, showing Tuesday, April 23. Men of Reenaction is screened with The Hard Ride: Black Cowboys at the Circle 6 Ranch. (AWJ) Jessica Yu in attendance.

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Jimmy Fowler
Arnold Wayne Jones
James Mardis