David Ansen

Stories by David Ansen

  • The Executioner's Song

    Looking back on his long life, the former death-row prison guard Paul Edgecomb (Tom Hanks) reckons he never saw the likes of John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan), the convicted killer who arrived in shackles at his Southern prison one day in 1935. A looming seven-foot black man condemned to death for the rape and murder of two 9-year-old white girls, Coffey turns out to be a regular sweetheart. Gentle, childlike, ignorant and afraid of the dark, he doesn't strike the observant Paul as a man capable of such atrocities.If the guard (or the audience) has any doubts about Coffey's innocence, these doubts are pretty much erased one hour into "The Green Mile," the second adaptation of a Stephen King prison tale from writer-director Frank ("The Shawshank Redemption") Darabont. In the movie's first--and nearly last--surprising moment, Coffey reaches outside his prison bars and yanks Edgecomb up against his face. Placing his huge hands on the guard's groin, Coffey proceeds (with the help of...
  • Hasta La Vista, Arnold?

    Ever had the desire to see Arnold Schwarzenegger crucified? Hurled across a room by a pudgy middle-aged woman? Beaten and kicked by a gang of Satan-worshiping thugs? Engaged in a shoot-out with Roman Catholic priests? Undergo a religious conversion? It's not as cool as it sounds. Arnold's latest mayhemathon, "End of Days," is a flabbergasting amalgam of pseudoreligiosity and "Seven"-inspired sadism. This time the Big Guy takes on the Biggest Guy of all--Satan, who appears in New York on the eve of the millennium in the body of a Wall Street bigwig (Gabriel Byrne). Satan's mission: to have carnal union with the chosen one (Robin Tunney), thus bringing about the dread "end of days."Arnold, an alcoholic ex-cop whose wife and kid were murdered (there's a new one!), is for some reason the only guy who can stop this apocalyptic roll in the sack. But guns won't do the trick against the Devil (not that Arnold doesn't try--repeatedly). Only someone with purity in his heart can save the world...
  • Sugar And A Bit Of Spice

    After the excruciating spectacle of Kenneth Branagh aping Woody Allen in "Celebrity," the Woodman had nowhere to go but up. Which is where he lands with his relaxed, amusing new comedy, "Sweet and Lowdown." It helps considerably that he has Sean Penn as his leading man. Penn is a hoot as jazz guitarist Emmett Ray, a mythical musical legend of the '30s. Both genius and louse, Ray is a dangerous combination of insecurity and bantam-cock bravado. "Very good, everybody," he compliments his band after a performance. "Particularly me."Employing faux-documentary "witnesses" such as jazz expert Nat Hentoff, the film recounts the tall tales of Ray's exploits and eccentricities--his stint as a pimp, his kleptomania, his obsession with shooting rats in city dumps. The closest Ray gets to love is with the mute, adoring laundry girl Hattie (the brilliant young English actress Samantha Morton). What a narcissist's fantasy: a woman who can never talk back! But Ray dumps her, and moves on to the...
  • Memory Lane

    Not a minute too soon, the floundering Barry Levinson ("Sleepers" and "Sphere") has returned to Baltimore, the inspiration for his best, most personal movies --"Diner," "Tin Men" and "Avalon." "Liberty Heights," a languorous, funny and lovingly detailed memory film, is set in 1954 in a Jewish suburb at a time when signs at a country club still announce baldly: NO JEWS, DOGS, OR COLOREDS ALLOWED. That would soon change. Integration is just around the corner, and white teenagers like Ben Kurtzman (Ben Foster), who can't keep his eyes off the only black girl (Rebekah Johnson) in his classroom, are about to discover the glories of Ray Charles and James Brown.Ben is not the only member of the Kurtzman family dealing with what his mother calls "the other kind." His older brother, Van (Adrian Brody), becomes obsessed with a rich, blond shiksa goddess (Carolyn Murphy). Their father, Nate (Joe Mantegna), who always drives this year's Cadillac, doesn't buy it with the money he makes at his...
  • Further Proof: Toys

    "Toy Story" will stay in the history books not just because it was the first all-computer-generated animated film, but because it set a storytelling standard that, four years later, has yet to be bested. The Pixar-Disney team gave itself close competition with last year's "A Bug's Life," but the only computer-generated film to equal the story of Woody, the pull-string cowboy, and Buzz Lightyear, the delusional space ranger toy, is... (you guessed it) "Toy Story 2." Sequels, by definition, are shamelessly commercial enterprises, but when the level of invention is this high you can only be grateful to John Lasseter and his gifted company for giving it their creative all.A torn and frayed Woody (voice of Tom Hanks) is once again at the endangered center of the story. While his beloved lord and master, Andy, is off at camp, Woody is kidnapped by the odious, obese and obsessive toy collector Al (Wayne Knight), owner of Al's Toy Barn. Woody had no idea how valuable he was! Turns out he...
  • Thoroughly Modern Jane

    The movies "Persuasion," "Sense and Sensibility" and "Emma" inevitably took a few cosmetic liberties with Jane Austen. The intent was not to rethink the novels, just to mold them into cinematic shapes. Patricia Rozema's "Mansfield Park" is another story. The Canadian writer-director ("I've Heard The Mermaids Singing") has performed major surgery on Austen's third novel. Both film and book follow Fanny Price (Frances O'Connor), an impoverished girl plucked from her Portsmouth family to be raised by her wealthy relatives, the Bertrams, at Mansfield Park. It's a Cinderella-like fable built atop the solid foundation of Austen's cool, astute social satire.The movie's Fanny, however, is a far cry from the passive, repressed--and to many, unlikable--heroine on the page. Using Austen's own letters and notebooks as source material, Rozema makes Fanny a more forthright, witty, morally decisive figure. Now a budding writer, she's a composite of Fanny and Austen herself. Dramatically this works...
  • Pure Pedro

    Pedro Almodovar, the enfantterrible whose gaudy, hilarious, gender-bending melodramas helped reinvent post-Franco Spain, has stopped pretending to be 21 anymore. With "All About My Mother," he gives us the most moving film of his career--a heartfelt tribute to women, actresses, art and "the kindness of strangers." Almodovar may have mellowed with middle age, but his characters are still more outrageous than most. His protagonist, Manuela (Cecilia Roth), is a single mother whose life is devastated when her teenage son, Esteban, is run over by a car. To restore her shattered equilibrium, she goes to Barcelona in search of the boy's father. What her son never knew is that his dad is now a woman named Lola.On her journey, she links up with three women who will become her new family--a chatty transvestite hooker (Antonia San Juan); a naive, pregnant nun (Penelope Cruz), and the theatrical diva (Marisa Paredes) whose autograph Esteban was rushing to get when he was killed. Both funny and...
  • Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

    Logically, Michael Mann's "The Insider" shouldn't be the edge-of-your-seat, gut-churning thriller that it is. A movie about Jeffrey Wigand, the guy who blew the whistle on the tobacco companies? Don't we know how that story turned out? A movie about how "60 Minutes" caved under corporate pressure and pulled its Wigand interview off the air? We read about it in the paper. Besides, everybody knows nicotine is addictive. This is news?Yes, indeed, when it's told by a filmmaker as accomplished as Mann. What he and his co-writer Eric Roth have chiseled out of this public drama is a wrenching personal tale of two men engaged in mortal combat with the corporate dragons. One is Wigand (Russell Crowe), the R&D man who is fired from his job at Brown & Williamson and decides to expose the tobacco company's courtroom lies. The other is Lowell Bergman (Al Pacino), the "60 Minutes" producer and reporter who must seduce Wigand to go public with what he knows, and protect him against the...
  • 'Princess' Ride

    "Princess Mononoke," the most successful anime film in Japanese history, breaks most of the animation rules Walt Disney lived by. Hayao Miyazaki's wondrous 14th-century tale about the never-ending battle between man and nature isn't the usual bouncy and compact 75 minutes but a leisurely (though action-packed) 2¼ hours. No animals trot out their borscht-belt routines. No one bursts into song. The handsome prince and the beautiful princess don't get married. Most remarkable of all, good and evil are not conveniently packaged in separate, clearly marked containers, but spread about equally in almost every character--man, woman, beast or god. This, you see, is the thinking kid's cartoon.Infused with a mystical animist spirit, this lyrical and often savage epic tells of a young prince who has fallen under a curse for killing a demon boar. Hoping to free himself from the lethal curse, he journeys to the forest--ruled by the magical Forest Spirit--where trees and animals are being...
  • Get Inside His Head

    There being little work for a puppeteer who stages risque versions of "Heloise and Abelard" on the streets of New York, the bearded, angst-ridden artiste Craig Schwartz (John Cusack) takes a job as a filing clerk at Lester Corp. This odd company is on the 7ith floor of a Manhattan office building, where the ceilings are so low the employees have to stoop over and the boss is an affable 105-year-old (Orson Bean) who apologizes for a speech impediment he doesn't have. Craig, unhappily married to a pet-obsessed wife (Cameron Diaz, almost unrecognizable), falls hard for his foxy new co-worker Maxine (Catherine Keener), who couldn't care less about a guy who plays with puppets.It's at this point in the already bizarre "Being John Malkovich" that we really go down the rabbit hole. Behind a filing cabinet at work Craig discovers a door that leads to a tunnel that leads ... inside John Malkovich's brain. For 15 glorious minutes, Craig experiences the thrill of being someone he is not--and...
  • Which Circle Next, Dante?

    As an ambulance cruises the nighttime streets of New York City, we catch infernal glimpses of human detritus: pregnant hookers, raving alcoholics, bullet-strewn bodies. These could be the same sights that inspired Travis Bickle to his murderous explosion in "Taxi Driver," that seminal collaboration between director Martin Scorsese and screenwriter Paul Schrader. But the observing eyes in their new film, "Bringing Out the Dead," belong to Frank Pierce (Nicolas Cage), a haunted, insomniac paramedic whose mission in life is to save people, not slaughter them. A typically tormented Scorsese hero, he's riddled with guilt for the lives he failed to save. The only light in the darkness comes in the form of Mary Burke (Patricia Arquette), a former junkie whose dying father is hanging by a thread in the emergency room.Did I mention "Bringing Out the Dead" is a comedy? Its bloodstained humor is strictly of the gallows variety--the bitter mirth needed to survive nightly immersions in the lower...
  • Reigning 'Men'

    The groom (Morris Chestnut) is a pro running back as devoutly Christian as he is piggishly male chauvinist. His adoring bride (Monica Calhoun) worships him, but she's smart enough not to tell him about the night back in college when she slept with his good friend Harper Stewart (Taye Diggs). Harper is "The Best Man" in Malcolm D. Lee's funny, sentimental, cheerfully bawdy story of a wedding reunion that stirs up a hornet's nest of old loves, lusts and jealousies.There are eight key characters in this romantic comedy/soap opera, and Lee's juicy cast wastes no time bringing them all to crowd-pleasing life. Diggs is a novelist torn between his girlfriend (Sanaa Lathan) and an ambitious TV producer (Nia Long) who wants to reignite their unconsummated college passion. Harold Perrineau plays a peacekeeping lawyer saddled with the bossy girlfriend from hell (Melissa De Sousa). Best of all is sly Terrence Howard as the womanizing rake Quentin. He steals just about every scene he's in, which...
  • All Used 'Us'

    Perhaps the most depressing thing about "The Story of Us," Rob Reiner's seriocomic look at a 15-year marriage gone sour, is that Reiner and writers Alan Zweibel and Jessie Nelson seem to think they're doing something bold and honest. They've all been living in Hollywood too long. The accumulated wisdom this movie has to impart--relationships take work, you know, and commitment--could have been learned sitting in front of a week of TV sitcoms.Michelle Pfeiffer and Bruce Willis play the couple under scrutiny, Katie and Ben Jordan. A comfortable L.A. couple with two kids, a nice home and a handful of the usual comic-sidekick best friends, this once happy couple does nothing but bicker bicker bicker. She complains that she's the "designated driver" of the relationship. He wonders where the wacky girl he fell in love with has gone. Both actors are capable of giving us complex, flesh-and-blood characters, but you won't find them here. What we see are two movie stars playing a generic...
  • Teen Spleen

    The roller-coaster emotionalism that is teenage life is captured so naturally in the Swedish movie "Show Me Love" that you might mistake it for a documentary. This small but rousing movie struck such a deep chord in its native country that it gave "Titanic" a run for its money. Unlike most Hollywood teen movies, which are designed to flatter their audience, "Show Me Love" acknowledges how mean and nasty teenage girls can be--especially in a small town like Amal, where there is little to do except get falling-down drunk or spit at cars.Writer-director Lukas Moodysson focuses on two girls at the opposite end of the high-school social spectrum. Blond, bored Elin (Alexandra Dahlstrom) is the beauty every boy wants to date. Brunette, bookish Agnes (Rebecca Liljeberg) is the school untouchable, rumored to be a lesbian. She sits in class stealing glances at Elin, confessing her love for her on her home computer. On a dare from her friends, Elin kisses Agnes at a party for money. Shattered...
  • A Fistful Of Darkness

    Jack (Edward Norton), the narrator of David Fincher's seriously wacked-out "Fight Club," is an insomniac wage slave so alienated from his life he takes to frequenting support groups. He starts with Men's Testicular Cancer. Sobbing in the arms of men whose afflictions he pretends to share, he finds a temporary freedom by abandoning all hope. Soon he's become a recovery-group addict. Every night he finds a different group--sickle-cell therapy, bowel cancer--until his quest is spoiled by the presence of another "tourist" like himself, the ashen-faced, chain-smoking Marla (Helena Bonham Carter). How can he cry with another faker in the room?So begins, promisingly and perversely, this darkest of dark satires from the director of the pitch-black "Seven" and the ultraparanoid "The Game." But Fincher's alternately amazing and annoying movie, written by Jim Uhls from a Chuck Palahniuk novel, has bolder provocations to come. On a business flight Jack meets the nihilist guru Tyler Durden (Brad...
  • Two Funerals And A Bedding

    A lot of very talented people--director Sydney Pollack, writer Kurt Luedtke, stars Harrison Ford and Kristin Scott Thomas--have inexplicably entangled themselves in the lugubrious "Random Hearts," an adult love story that's trying for stiff-upper-lip poignancy. Ford is a Washington, D.C., police sergeant and Scott Thomas a New Hampshire congresswoman up for re-election whose spouses die in a plane crash. Ford discovers that the departed spouses were secret lovers, and becomes obsessed with uncovering the details of their adulterous affair, boorishly dragging Scott Thomas into his search for the awful truth. The film assumes that we will find his quest interesting. It isn't. Even less gripping is a jerry-built subplot about Ford's pursuit of a crooked cop. It takes forever for this portentous drama to get to the inevitable moment when the chilly congresswoman melts in the dogged cop's arms, and when it does, the heat generated by these two attractive stars barely rises above room...
  • Walk Like A Man, Talk Like A Man

    Kimberly Peirce, the director of the heartbreaking "Boys Don't Cry," has been obsessed with the story of Brandon Teena ever since she read about his death in 1993. Brandon, born as Teena Brandon, was a 21-year-old Nebraska girl who passed as a boy, dating women who found him an alluring lover. When his deception was uncovered in Falls City, where he had fallen in love with a girl named Lana, he was raped and beaten by Lana's old beau and his ex-con friend--both of whom had been Teena's friends. Before the police got around to arresting them, they murdered him."When I read about Brandon," the fiercely focused 32-year-old Peirce recalls, "I felt an immediate kinship. I was overwhelmed by the power of his desire to change himself into his fantasy of a boy. The absolute daring and courage to go and pull it off. So I thought it was my job to bring Brandon back to life and make sense of it for everybody."Peirce, who made a short film about Brandon as her graduate thesis at Columbia...
  • Operation Desert Scam

    "Three kings" keeps you off balance from its first moment. We are thrust into the middle of a vast, barren desert, the colors bleached out, the horizon stretched and distorted by a wide-angle lens. It's 1991, and the gulf war has just ended. An Iraqi soldier stands at a far distance atop a mound, his hands raised as the armed American soldiers try to estimate the threat he poses. "Are we shooting?" one of them asks, meaning, Are we shooting people? but the viewer might think he was talking to the director, inquiring whether the camera was rolling. Then a bullet, shockingly, blows the Iraqi away, and we have our first clue that this caper comedy, about a quartet of renegade Yanks stealing gold bullion from Saddam, isn't going to be merely a jolly macho update of "Kelly's Heroes." David O. Russell's remarkable movie can be blisteringly funny, but it's playing for keeps.Russell, who's made two nervy independent movies, "Spanking the Monkey" and the neo-screwball "Flirting with Disaster...
  • And Now For The 'Beauty' Part

    Dressed like a Bible salesman, with a gaze that seems to look right through you and an inner calm that's either beatific or sinister, Ricky Fitts, the visionary dope-dealer-next-door in "American Beauty," was a part coveted by young actors in Hollywood. But no one knew who Wes Bentley was when he walked in to meet with director Sam Mendes. Now, no one is likely to forget him.Bentley had been handed the script by his newly acquired agent. "I was just blown away. I knew I had to meet the director. I didn't want him to see me on tape. I had to show him that I understood the feeling of this script," the 21-year-old actor says. "There was something about this movie. We got lucky on this one." Suddenly Bentley finds that he's no longer the pursuer, but the pursued. The scripts are coming his way--most of them, inevitably, "dark and haunting."Born in Jonesboro, Ark., Bentley went to high school in North Little Rock, then spent a year studying at Julliard. A casting director spotted him ...
  • What 'American' Dream?

    There is a very special alchemy at work in "American Beauty," a movie composed of familiar parts which manages to feel strikingly new. Moviemakers have been busy exposing the hollow heart at the suburban supermarket for a good five decades. Now along comes a gifted screenwriter, Alan Ball; a remarkable first-time movie director from England, Sam Mendes, and a superlative cast to make those old tropes feel frisky and potent again.Borrowing a page from "Sunset Boulevard," this dreamy black comedy is narrated by a corpse: Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey), a going-nowhere writer for Media Monthly who already considers himself among the walking dead. His Realtor wife (Annette Bening) is chilly and compulsive, his daughter (Thora Birch) loathes him and his boss is about to fire him. What brings him back to life is a glimpse of his daughter's high-school classmate Angela (Mena Suvari), seductively strutting her cheerleader's stuff on a basketball court. Emboldened by mad desire, he quits his...
  • Funny Guy

    Bruce Vilanch, a portly gay man with a wild mane of unruly hair, is the Cyrano de Bergerac of the Hollywood comic community. Those hilarious one-liners Billy Crystal tosses off at the Oscars? Vilanch wrote them. That dirty-sweet Bette Midler Sophie Tucker persona? Vilanch created it. He's the guy Whoopi Goldberg turns to when she has to say something funny at President Clinton's birthday bash. He can tailor a joke to fit Roseanne's "gum-chewing dismissal of the world" or Paul Reiser's style of "wry observation." As Nathan Lane quips, "He's given more great lines to celebrities than a Hollywood coke dealer." Could be Vilanch wrote that one, too.This semipublic figure (he's on "Hollywood Squares") is the subject of the fond, frequently hilarious tribute "Get Bruce," made by Andrew J. Kuehn. It's worth the price of admission just to hear Vilanch bouncing ideas off of a revved Robin Williams, who shapeshifts into Jack Benny and Rochester before our eyes. Even Steven Segal hires Vilanch...
  • A Handful Of Tangos In Paris

    Outside of porn movies, no film has ever explored sex more explicitly than Catherine Breillat's "Romance." This alone will make it a subject of controversy--one erect penis on a U.S. screen is more incendiary than a thousand guns, and "Romance" has more than one. What makes it even more groundbreaking is that the point of view is distinctively female. French director Breillat puts us inside the head of Marie (Caroline Ducey), a schoolteacher who is in love with a model named Paul (Sagamore Stevenin). But the narcissistic Paul, who shares her bed, refuses to have sex with her, and his erotic indifference sets her off on a sexual quest that is every bit the opposite of Tom Cruise's never-satisfied journey in "Eyes Wide Shut." This one provoked even the shockproof French.Paolo, Marie's first fling, is Paul's opposite--pure carnal desire. (He is played by a legendary Italian porn star, Rocco Siffredi.) Her second encounter, with the principal of her school, is as much mental as physical...
  • Ghost Story

    The timing of "Stir of Echoes" is either very good or very bad, depending on how many ghosts the public cares to cozy up to this summer. Fresh on the heels of the quietly creepy "The Sixth Sense," we have another movie in which a little boy--5-year-old Jake Witzky (Zachary David Cope)--is on speaking terms with the dead. Actually, Jake is a red herring in David Koepp's horror movie. This is the story of his dad, Tom (Kevin Bacon). A blue-collar Chicago guy, Tom starts seeing disturbing visions after he's been hypnotized at a party. Is he going mad, or is there really a ghoulishly pale girl sitting in his living room? "Don't be afraid of it, Daddy," his supernaturally precocious son tells him calmly. Evidently this gift runs in the family."The Sixth Sense" combined two genres not ordinarily linked--the ghost story and the tear-jerker. "Stir of Echoes," based on a 1958 Richard Matheson novel, takes a more predictable turn. It merges the horror genre with the whodunit, revealing that...
  • Growing Up Absurd In R.I.

    If you've seen the ads for "Outside Providence," you've been deceived. This is not, as Miramax would like you to believe, "There's Something About Mary" meets "Dumb & Dumber." Yes, it was written by the Farrelly brothers (along with Michael Corrente, the director) and based on Peter Farrelly's novel--and, yes, it's often very funny. But gross-out farce is neither its style nor its objective. A memory piece set in 1974, it's the coming-of-age story of a working-class teenager, Tim Dunphy (Shawn Hatosy), from Pawtucket, R.I. Tim's got a gruff but loving widowed dad (Alec Baldwin) who calls him Dildo, a kid brother in a wheelchair, a three-legged dog, a small circle of stoner friends and a view of the world that doesn't stretch farther than the end of his bong. All that begins to change when, to get him off the hook with the law, he's sent for his senior year to the preppy Cornwall Academy for Boys. Cornwall is just the sort of uptight, disciplinarian institution a blue-collar kid...
  • A Hex Upon Hollywood

    The only predictable thing about the movie business is that a couple of times every decade something utterly unpredictable will happen. Something that upsets everybody's notion of what people are supposed to want to see. This, naturally, makes an already jittery town unusually nervous. "The Blair Witch Project," made on a budget that would barely cover the salary of a star's personal trainer, is such a movie. In spades. A movie shot with a handheld video camera in which nothing is shown and nothing happens that anybody can really describe.Hollywood can understand which lessons to draw from a phenomenon like "Titanic," the most expensive movie ever made. Spend more money! But this? Let's see: spend no money; don't advertise on TV before it opens; don't put any recognizable actors in your movie; open your film in a few art houses; then say 10 Hail Marys and wait for lightning to strike.Since teenagers were invented in the 1950s, we've had a long line of movies that seemed to turn the...
  • Box Office Heat

    Up until now Hollywood has enjoyed a remarkably prosperous summer. Seven movies have already broken the $100 million barrier. No surprise at the top--it's that darn Skywalker boy--but who would have guessed the numbers for "The Blair Witch Project," the Mini-Me of horror movies? But the dog days of August, packed to the bursting point with new product, may bring a reality check: probably only a few can survive such a crowded showdown. Here's four to start off summer's last hurrah.Runaway BrideThe problem with "runaway Bride" isn't the radiant Julia Roberts, whose star wattage has rarely burned so brightly. The problem isn't Richard Gere, who is loose, self-effacing and unusually charming. No one, certainly, can deny their chemistry: almost 10 years after "Pretty Woman," it's still volatile and plain to see. So why does "Runaway Bride" feel so off? Why does it produce such halfhearted laughter?This is the sort of Hollywood tale in which everything seems to have been decided by...
  • Ghost In The Machine

    A ghost has to work overtime to haunt Hill House, the gargantuan mansion Eugenio Zanetti has designed for Jon De Bont's lavish remake of "The Haunting." The imposing Romanesque pile in the 1963 version (directed by Robert Wise) was a modest cottage compared with this looming, cavernous Gothic-Italianate-Moorish-Baroque hodgepodge. If something went bump in the night here, you'd never hear it: things have to rumble, screech and crash like a 50-car collision to get the attention of the three freaked-out human lab rats lured to the house by Dr. David Marrow (Liam Neeson) for his study on the physiology of fear.The terrified trio consists of Lili Taylor (in the mother-dominated Julie Harris role), Catherine Zeta-Jones (as a sexually ambiguous jet-setter) and the amusingly quirky Owen Wilson (as the group skeptic). Keeping admirably straight faces, they must undergo an elaborate trial-by-special effects in this expensive-looking horror movie, which turns the original's scare strategy on...
  • Season's End

    Anyone who complains that there are no movies out there for grown-ups should immediately head for "Autumn Tale," the final--and best--of Eric Rohmer's 1990s series "Tales of the Four Seasons." Of course, the 79-year-old director has been, in his way, as obsessed with youth as the most lubricious Hollywood producer: from "Claire's Knee" to "Pauline at the Beach" to "Summer's Tale," the object of desire in his films has almost always been a beautiful young girl."Autumn Tale" marks a significant change. Here, ripeness is all. The two women who dominate the film, Magali and Isabelle (played by Rohmer veterans Beatrice Romand and Marie Riviere), are old friends now in their mid-40s. The happily married Isabelle, a bookseller in the city, takes it upon herself to find a man for the widowed Magali, a vital but lonely vintner from the Rhone Valley. Since Magali refuses to take out a personal ad, Isabelle deviously places one for her, and poses as her friend to scout prospective suitors....
  • Spike Stew

    David Berkowitz, the infamous Son of Sam, is just a deranged background figure in "Summer of Sam." In Spike Lee's garish, explosive mural of the New York summer of 1977, the serial killer is merely the catalyst who sets off a heat wave of fear and paranoia. Lee aims to give us a kaleidoscopic picture of a summer of riots, blackouts and disco fever, a time of Plato's Retreat orgies, Studio 54 drug excess and the emergence of punk. A thick stew of sex, violence and suspicion, Lee's movie--spiked up with a virtually nonstop soundtrack--definitely has the power to jangle your nerves. A hysterical movie about hysterical people in a hysterical time, it can also get on your nerves.The focus is on a working-class Italian-American neighborhood in the Bronx. Lee and his co-writers, Victor Colicchio and Michael Imperioli, are treading on chewed-up cinematic turf: how many more goomba-in-the-nabe movies can we stand? The most prominent characters are a philandering hairdresser, Vinny (John...