LOST LOVES, AND LOST WARS
An often whimsical surface masks profound themes. Cursed by a jealous archbishop, a knight becomes a wolf at night, and his beautiful beloved becomes a hawk by day. They can but glimpse each other's humanity for a moment at dawn and dusk. The two are apparently doomed to go through life together thus.
Both human spiritedness and human love have a bestial side. But the lovers remain together because their belief in the divine has produced the depth of soul required for love into eternity. But it is the wisecracking Matthew Broderick who helps the two of them overcome the curse. This is, thank God, riot Wagner.
The Sure Thing
Rob Reiner (This is Spinal Tap) again shows himself to be an adroit director of this comedy of morals with its themes of innocence, honor, and love. On a cross-country trip, two college freshmen learn about honor in love relationships. Southern Californians will enjoy the Eastern perspective on themselves. Everyone else can eat their hearts out.
The Purple Rose of Cairo
Director Woody Allen presents us with an illusion within the illusion of film. As in Zelig, the idea is interesting but turns stale; the film comes close to boring us. Like all Woody Allen films, this is, despite the wit, an ugly movie: Love itself is an illusion. We would add that it is indeed an illusion for souls as insubstantial as images on a movie screen. Unfortunately, Allen's ingenuity enables him to display his own shameless self-contempt before millions of viewers.
The Gods Must Be Crazy
One of the most hilarious films of recent years, this Monty Pythonesque farce combines the paths of an African bushman who wants to return a mysterious gift of the gods (a Coke bottle), a love-struck zoologist who is totally inept at courting, and a group of revolutionaries almost equally inept at staging coups. Set in the bush of South Africa, the film has drawn some criticism by those who maintain that it is pro-apartheid. (The film also depicts whites and blacks working together amicably, as equals, in Johannesburg.) But this South African film is in no way racist, as the dignity of the bushman shines through.
According to the Sunday New York Times Magazine, Alamo Bay director Louis Malle thought he had created a story affirming the principles of the Declaration of Independence.
But in its teaching, Alamo Bay is worse than a total failure. The account of confrontations between native and Vietnamese immigrant fishermen in the small Texas Gulf Coast town suffers from more than an insubstantial script and general incoherence.
It is evident from this film that Louis Malle hates not just small-town America-characterized by run-down bars, pathetic churches, bigoted townspeople, and polyester Klan recruiters-but America generally. ("This country is a country of drifters. . . . It seems that [Americans] don't really have roots," Malle once contended, in an interview.) Alamo Bay, like his cleverly done Atlantic City, raises doubts about why anyone would want to become an American in the first place. If America were a nation as tawdry and pathetic as Malle and his fellow French intellectuals make out, then America would not be a nation worthy of receiving refugees from Communism.
Rambo: First Blood, Part II
First Blood portrayed the implications of the loss of the Vietnam War for the American character. A bigoted small-town, Washington state sheriff and his men bully Vietnam hero Rambo. Here small-town America mocks and persecutes its heroes. When foreign wars appear to be in vain, American spiritedness turns against its own. Rambo takes Sylvester Stallone's indictment of America's Vietnam War conduct a step further, to emphasize government bureaucrats who hide their cowardice behind technology. The attitude that brought about the loss of the Vietnam War remains entrenched in government, Rambo discovers. When recruited for his prisoner-of-war rescue mission, he asks the question, "Do we get to win this time?" And winning, it turns out, means fighting the Russians, and Americans as well who don't understand the meaning of national honor.
All this has been too much for most film critics to take, and they have savaged what is far more than an action film comparable to The Terminator. But losing wars has far worse consequences than sitting through movies they dislike. These critics' ridicule of Rambo and Red Dawn is their attempt to deny the harshness of political life in the twentieth century.