By Sherrie Li
By Falling James
By Amanda Lewis
By Amy Nicholson
By Amy Nicholson
By Jennifer Swann
By Scott Foundas
By Sherrie Li
Rosetta, which was shown on the last day of the festival, helped to alleviate the numerous high-profile disasters and disappointments, including Peter Greenaway's execrable 8 Þ Women; the crushingly inadequate Kikujiro, a farrago of bad comedy and bathos from Fireworks' Takeshi Kitano; Atom Egoyan's Felicia's Journey, limned with Emerald Isle platitudes and spiritual cynicism; Chen Kaige's tedious historical epic The Emperor and the Assassin; and David Lynch's The Straight Story, an upcoming Disney release based on the adventures of a septuagenarian Iowan who traveled 350 miles on a lawn mower to visit his ailing brother. The well-leathered Richard Farnsworth is the main attraction in Lynch's one-note film, whose inane, fraudulent script, co-written by the director's wife and editor, Mary Sweeney, plays like the greatest hits of Peggy Noonan.
One of the better selections in Competition that managed to disappoint nonetheless was Jim Jarmusch's Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, an underrealized work about black masculinity held together, though barely, by Forest Whitaker's soulful lead performance and a soundtrack from the Wu-Tang Clan's RZA. The film's brilliant central conceit is black survival strategies -- in this instance, a hit man embraces the code of the samurai -- a conceit that's soon overrun with easy jokes and a miscued white righteousness that tends to cancel out the tougher, more thoughtful stretches. A more ambitious American film at the festival, and likely one of the best, most exciting American films we'll see this year: Kevin Smith's Dogma.
A raucously funny satire crammed with uneven performances and comedy of the lowest order (anal sex) and highest (the Apostles), Dogma premiered without the benefit of an American distributor. Although the film was bankrolled by Disney's Miramax, it will be distributed by another company ostensibly because of the potentially inflammatory subject matter -- George Carlin plays Cardinal Glick, leader of a movement called Catholicism Wow!; Chris Rock is the 13th Apostle, Rufus ("Knew him?" he says of Christ. "Nigger owes me 12 bucks"); and God is played by no less a deity than . . . Alanis Morissette. But the film will be inflammatory only for those who will never have a chance to see it. Dogma is one of the most devout films produced in this country, at times pedantically so, which is why it's a good guess that what actually sealed its fate is a scene in a movie-company boardroom. A fallen angel played by Matt Damon enters and begins taking the executives bitterly to task for corrupting the minds of the young with enterprises such as Mooby World and cartoon characters such as the "Golden Calf," a creature whose conceptual resemblance to Mickey Mouse is undeniable. One by one, the angel accuses the men of sin, and one by one, he slaughters them. There's no word as to whether Michael Eisner has seen the film, but Harvey Weinstein was there to assure us in person that he himself loved it.
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