Neptune, which has now, for better or worse, moved its art house programming into the Varsity. Seattle is lucky to have more than one theater to show these types of films. L.A., the city of movies, has only one; most American cities have none. The Grand Illusion gives you the feeling of having discovered something great at a garage sale. It shows the kinds of films that are almost impossible to appreciate on video- films with subtitles and subtlety that have achieved something special cinematically.
Jane Campion’s The Piano is an excellent movie, despite all the usually suspect hype. I did like her first film, Sweetie, even better, where the imagery wasn’t quite so brave, but the characters made up for it. The Piano lies somewhere between the dark, mysterious reality of Sweetie and the high-handed pretension of her next film, An Angel at My Table. While her first two movies
were both excellent, Campion directs The Piano with an authority that wasn’t quite there previously. The visual style is decisively
epic, being so rich and original that it is moving almost frame by frame. The acting is incredibly subtle and complex. Harvey Keitel has an innocence that mixes eerily with the heavy burden he usually seems to carry in his films. Holly Hunter is strong and brutally honest as a civilized mute woman toughly seduced by her primitive surroundings (which include Keitel). With all this originality, it is almost disappointing that the story’s structure is so familiar, especially toward the end.
I don’t know why I see Brian De Palma movies. They all suck. But I’ve seen them all. I think the reason is because he has a style that is uniquely his. It’s not a good style, but it is a style, and that separates his crap from 90% of the crap in movie theaters.
Carlito’s Way presents a version of Puerto Rican Harlem that is so ridiculous it is completely racist. Just the fact that the woman Carlito falls for is a beautiful white woman should be enough to tell you where the sensibilities of this film he. She’s not so much a character as a symbol of ethnic purity. The last scene has Al Pacino and a few stereotypical Italian gangsters chasing each other around Grand Central Station with guns. This unlikely scene comes off like a bunch of kids playing cops and robbers. Brian De Palma is patronizing in his clarity and suspense everything goes on after you get the point. If he were working in the silent era, he would’ve left the subtitles on the screen too long. But I knew all this before I went, so why did I go? MM