Here is Meryl Streep again. (And, I hope, again and again.) Only a few weeks ago One True Thing presented her as an American housewife, with Streep struggling bravely to pry her role free of a cereal ad in a women's magazine. She had more success than the banal role deserved. Now she takes on a much more taxing challenge. She joins a cast of foreign actors and performs as one of the foreign group. In Dancing at Lughnasa (Sony Pictures Classics) she is one of five Irish sisters.
Bill Clinton influences the film world. The missile attacks that he recently ordered have revived interest in Wag the Dog. His personal behavior has extended permissiveness in public discussion; so it has, in some degree, affected the atmosphere in which Lolita (Samuel Goldwyn) arrives. Candor passed a milestone in this country with a comment by a man interviewed on a news program last month: “I never thought I’d have to explain oral sex to my eleven-year-old daughter.” And this is only one of the fractures of reticence that have lately been crackling all around us. Clinton is not into pedoph
Hollywood and politics have been going together for a long time. Kevin Brownlow showed in Behind the Mask of Innocence that political comment in American films began much earlier than is generally thought. But Hollywood figures as political activists themselves— that phenomenon began, I'd guess, in the 1930s.
As if Emma Thompson weren't enough of a gift from heaven, now we have her mother, too, Phyllida Law. And the two of them in the same film, playing daughter and mother! Law is a highly experienced actress in British theater and TV and film, but The Winter Guest (Fine Line) is the first time she has had a prominent role in a picture seen here, and it's certainly our first chance to see her play her daughter's mother.When she and Thompson are on screen together, it's almost possible to discern what Law was and what Thompson will be.
Surely someone has counted all the books and films about the Titanic, and I'm glad I don't know the result. A Broadway musical about it is now running. And here is the latest film. Titanic (Paramount-20th Century Fox), reportedly the most expensive picture ever made. Reasons for the story’s interest are not obscure. The luxurious Titanic was called unsinkable, the safest ship ever built; and it went down on its maiden voyage in April 1912, four days after it had sailed from Southampton for New York.
The latest work by Michelangelo Antonioni, one of the premier artists in the world history of film, is Beyond the Clouds. I put no distributor after the title because, as yet, it has none for this country, although one is said to be en route. The picture was shown at the recent New York Film Festival. As one who has severely questioned that festival, I must note that it has shown all three of Antonioni's films since The Passenger (1975).
Christopher Hampton is best known in this country for his dramatization, on stage and screen, of Les Liaisons Dangereuses, but he has been an eminent figure in the British theater for more than thirty years. For twenty of those years he has been interested in the story of Dora Carrington and Lytton Strachey and has been involved in several aborted attempts to film it.
Showgirls (United Artists) is a backstage story with many bare breasts, some pubic hair, some comments on menstruation and some simulated sex. Some of the latter is even meant to be simulated--lap dancing. The story is by Joe Eszterhas, the hottest of Hollywood hotshot writers, and it couldn't matter less. It's like the libretto of a third-rate nineteenth-century opera: an excuse for arias, only in this case the arias are flesh displays and terrific dancing.
I. I just got back from Hollywood, where I had breakfast with Ricardo Mestres at the Bel Air Hotel. Mestres shot from Harvard to the head of Disney’s Hollywood pictures, only to release a string of flops so unremittingly horrible that finally, after a deathwatch that seemed to go on for years, he lost his job. But there he was, with a spanking new title, dressed with casual confidence in khakis and a plaid shirt, working on his second breakfast of the day. The head of Warner Brothers’ film division sat across from us, the new chairman of Disney in the corner.
November 14, 1994
By now everybody knows that Quentin Tarantino is the happiest man in the world. Not so many years ago he was a clerk in a California video store, devouring film film film. Then he tried to break into filmmaking himself, first by writing scripts. It took years to get in. But those video days and the buff-dom of his boyhood sustained him, and now he is where he dreamed of being. He is making the films that will stock those video stores. Some younger aspirant will sell Tarantino tapes.