Article: 19930701032

Title: Movies

19930701032
00067246
200050_19930701_067246.xml
Movies
0032-1478
Playboy
HMH Publishing Co., Inc.
Review-Films
30
30,34
review
Readers of Virginia Woolf's 1928 novel know that to make any movie version of Orlando (Sony Classics) is an act of daring. All the more credit to British adapter and director Sally Potter for reworking Woolf's fanciful tale. It's a witty, wondrous art film about a character whose life story lasts 400 years and involves a sex change from male to female. Orlando recaps centuries of English history with gender-bending aplomb. Actress Tilda Swinton manages to be both androgynous and seductive as Orlando, a young man who wakes up as a woman one 18th century day and dryly addresses the camera to say: "Same person, no difference at all—just a different sex." Quentin Crisp, in drag, plays Queen Elizabeth I and takes time to fondle Orlando, who is clearly more interested in a worldly Russian beauty named Sasha (Charlotte Valandrey). Later, in Victorian England, the female Orlando rides off on horseback with a swashbuckling American adventurer (played dashingly by Billy Zane). At the brainteasing climax of his/her career as a nobleman, poet, foreign ambassador, lover, author and mother, Orlando shows up whizzing through modern London astride a motorcycle. Familiarity with the book may help to explain it all. But don't bet on it, just go for it. Questions about life, love, sexual identity and self-discovery are scattered like confetti through Potter's vibrant Orlando—a cinematic somersault of spectacular dimensions. [rating]4 bunnies[/rating]
Bruce Williamson
30
34

Readers of Virginia Woolf's 1928 novel know that to make any movie version of Orlando (Sony Classics) is an act of daring. All the more credit to British adapter and director Sally Potter for reworking Woolf's fanciful tale. It's a witty, wondrous art film about a character whose life story lasts 400 years and involves a sex change from male to female. Orlando recaps centuries of English history with gender-bending aplomb. Actress Tilda Swinton manages to be both androgynous and seductive as Orlando, a young man who wakes up as a woman one 18th century day and dryly addresses the camera to say: "Same person, no difference at all—just a different sex." Quentin Crisp, in drag, plays Queen Elizabeth I and takes time to fondle Orlando, who is clearly more interested in a worldly Russian beauty named Sasha (Charlotte Valandrey). Later, in Victorian England, the female Orlando rides off on horseback with a swashbuckling American adventurer (played dashingly by Billy Zane). At the brainteasing climax of his/her career as a nobleman, poet, foreign ambassador, lover, author and mother, Orlando shows up whizzing through modern London astride a motorcycle. Familiarity with the book may help to explain it all. But don't bet on it, just go for it. Questions about life, love, sexual identity and self-discovery are scattered like confetti through Potter's vibrant Orlando—a cinematic somersault of spectacular dimensions. [rating]4 bunnies[/rating]

What would happen if the president of the United States, comatose after suffering a stroke while flagrante delicto, were replaced by a hired look-alike who turns out to be a much nicer guy? That's the premise behind Dave (Warner), in which Kevin Kline plays the head of a Baltimore employment agency when he isn't doubling for President Bill Mitchell. Sigourney Weaver appears to be having fun as the First Lady, a do-gooder who suspects that the changed man in the White House can't possibly be the corrupt political hack she married. Producer-director Ivan Reitman, who broke the bank with both Ghostbusters, has a screenplay by Gary Ross (co-author of Big) that's as full of broad liberal strokes as a Frank Capra comedy starring Jimmy Stewart. Such insiders as John McLaughlin, Oliver Stone, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Senator Alan Simpson play themselves to add a piquant touch of authenticity, while Charles Grodin, Kevin Dunn, Frank Langella and Ben Kingsley (he's the disgraced vice president waiting in the wings) supply excellent comic relief. Dave touches all the right buttons for audiences who don't believe a thing they hear from Washington. [rating]3 bunnies[/rating]

In one hilarious scene in Sleepless in Seattle (TriStar), a woman tearfully recaps the entire plot of an old Deborah Kerr–Cary Grant heartbreaker called An Affair to Remember. Tom Hanks co-stars with Meg Ryan in co-author/director Nora Ephron's witty romantic comedy about a Seattle widower whose son Jonah (Ross Malinger) phones a radio call-in show to say that his dad needs a new wife. While we know Ryan will turn out to be the one, Sleepless turns out to be a major, sweet surprise. [rating]3-1/2 bunnies[/rating]

James Spader and Mandy Patinkin stretch their talents in provocative new directions in The Music of Chance (I.R.S./Trans Atlantic). Directed by Philip Haas from an adaptation of a bizarre novel by Paul Auster, the movie features Patinkin as Jim, a rootless former fireman who gets away from it all in his BMW. He picks up a greaseball gambler on the highway (Spader as Jack, a wild card quite unlike his usual Mr. Cool) and detours into a face-off with fate. The strangers lose everything they have, including the car, and incur a $10,000 debt playing poker with two odd millionaires (Joel Grey and Charles Durning). They subsequently become prisoners in a shack on the rich men's estate, working off what they owe by building a stone wall across an open field. A menacing gatekeeper (M. Emmet Walsh) oversees their backbreaking, soul-destroying chore, which never seems to end. Whether Jim and Jack are true captives or just trapped by their own destinies is a question unanswered in Music of Chance. This mysterious and compelling psychodrama supplies rich food for thought, which means skip it if you prefer a movie that's pure popcorn. [rating]3 bunnies[/rating]

Three young New Yorkers take turns sharing a studio apartment in The Night We Never Met (Miramax). Kevin Anderson owns the pad—he's a swinging stockbroker, about to be married but not about to give up his bachelor lair. Matthew Broderick plays a store manager with too many noisy roommates; he wants privacy. Annabella Sciorra plays a married dental hygienist who craves a touch of city life to ease suburban boredom. It's a clever idea with spirited performers, but there's too much talk and too little conviction. The comedy shows signs of strain—especially in an irrelevant subplot featuring Jeanne Tripple-horn as a foreign bimbo whose thick accent is meant to be funny. It's just one of the handicaps that short-circuit Night We Never Met, which looks promising but is probably headed straight for video. [rating]2 bunnies[/rating]

About as French as you can get, the subtitled Un Coeur en Hiver(A Heart in Winter) (October Films) is a highly cerebral love triangle. Claude Sautet, who won France's César for directing the film, gets a fine performance from André Dussollier, who took home his own César as best actor in a secondary role. Co-stars Daniel Auteuil and Emmanuelle Béart round out the cast. The exquisite Béart plays a famed violinist who so enchants Dussollier—head of a firm that repairs fine violins—that he gives up both his marriage and extramarital exploits to live with her. She, however, becomes passionately obsessed with his unassuming partner, played by Auteuil, a detached bachelor whose indifference is puzzling at first. Everything works out in a flood of tears and civilized emotional turmoil. All in all, it is eroticism played like chamber music. [rating]3 bunnies[/rating]

Actress Liv Ullmann makes her debut as a director with the Danish-language Sofie (Arrow Entertainment), the saga of a young Jewish woman in 1886 Copenhagen. Compelled by her family to marry her cousin Jonas (Torben Zeller), a sober storekeeper from Sweden, she gives up her dreams about an exciting non-Jewish painter (Jesper Christensen). The subsequent decades pass slowly—too slowly at times—but actress Karen-Lise Mynster triumphs in a title role that Ullmann herself might have played a few years ago. Mynster's Sofie endures childbirth, frustration, tedium and dark thoughts about infidelity, until one day she discovers she has become an aging widow. Sofie looks back at a life more short than sweet—and her grown son faces the same choices she once made, between dutiful conformity and passionate self-realization. Ullmann directs with sensitive attention to details that suggests she has learned a lot from her long association with Ingmar Bergman. She has also cast two superb actors as Sofie's parents: Erland Josephson, another Bergman veteran, and Ghita Nørby, Danish star of the 1991 Oscar-winning Best Intentions. Taking her good time—altogether two and a half hours—Ullmann condenses one woman's story into an eloquent, universal family album of filmed memories. [rating]3-1/2 bunnies[/rating]

Set in Yugoslavia in happier days, Tito and Me (Kino International) is a small-scale but charming political satire written and directed by Goran Markovic. The Me of the title is Zoran (Dimitrie Vojnov), a plump ten-year-old boy in 1954 Belgrade who wins a chance to go on a sort of children's crusade to Marshall Tito's birthplace. Before the pilgrimage ends—with an overzealous group leader coming unglued en route—Zoran decides he prefers Tarzan, food, girls and Gary Cooper to a limp handshake from Tito. Thus Markovic gently spoofs the cult of personality in something close to a kiddie-show format. [rating]2 bunnies[/rating]

In a godawful comedy called Made in America (Warner), all the chemistry between Whoopi Goldberg and Ted Danson must have occurred offscreen. The cheerless idea is that Whoopi has a teenaged daughter, conceived way back when, by artificial insemination. Much too late, she is informed that the sperm donor was probably a white man—even worse, an obnoxious auto salesman played by Ted Danson as a loudmouth who rides an elephant in his TV commercials. Their uneasy family reunion segues into sight gags about a runaway pachyderm, bicycle accidents and a seduction scene, the worst when Danson wrestles Whoopi onto a bed after telling her: "I don't mean to be crass—but my sperm has been in your body." Crass isn't the word. [rating]1 bunny[/rating]

A sexual enigma, a White House impersonator, gambling men and damsels in distress.

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Swinton and Valandrey oddly coupled.
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