Outside the Frame...Top Films: 1990

looking at the same pictures from a different angle -

notes & impressions (with no particular preference).
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1.
Close-Up (1990)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
The true story of Hossain Sabzian that impersonated the director Mohsen Makhmalbaf to convince a family they would star in his so-called new film. (98 mins.)
“ Phenomenal examination of identity - do you pretend to be someone else in order to play yourself? Up close & personal; obliterates divide between documentary and fiction. Mysteriously provoking, sits firmly beside Antonioni or Kieslowski. A masterwork. ” - Bernard Hamel
 
2.
After Dark, My Sweet (1990)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  
An ex-boxer is drifting around after escaping from the mental hospital. He meets a widow who convinces... (114 mins.)
Director: James Foley
“ Smoldering ambiguity. Dark & hot with a desperate hunger, yet nobly resigned - like a banished prince composing his own elegy. The best adaptation of Jim Thompson (includes the oily Bruce Dern). ” - Bernard Hamel
 
3.
Goodfellas (1990)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.7/10 X  
The story of Henry Hill and his life through the teen years into the years of mafia, covering his relationship with his wife Karen Hill and his Mob partners Jimmy Conway and Tommy DeVito in the Italian-American crime syndicate. (146 mins.)
Director: Martin Scorsese
“ A comprehensive look into the inner mechanics of the working "stiffs" as opposed to the glamorous "Godfathers" - impeccably detailed; insightful, free flowing narrative matches the fluid camera movement...and yes, you are funny too. ” - Bernard Hamel
 
4.
I Hired a Contract Killer (1990)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
After fifteen years' service, Henri Boulanger is made redundant from his job. Shocked, he attempts suicide... (79 mins.)
Director: Aki Kaurismäki
“ Pure Kaurismaki. Utilizes classic film noir standards almost as props, turning them into the most original idea involving a hit man - throw in Jean-Pierre Léaud and it's a must! ” - Bernard Hamel
 
5.
La discrète (1990)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.0/10 X  
There is an author who has been dumped by his girlfriend and has no inspiration for a next novel. In an attempt to find a solution to both crises... (94 mins.)
“ Are objects of desire the art of deceit? Rohmeresque penmanship dipped in acid: a dish best served in print. Fabrice Luchini...should I say more? ” - Bernard Hamel
 
6.
The Hairdresser's Husband (1990)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
Antoine has always been fascinated with a hairdresser's delicate touch, the beguiling perfume and the figure of a woman with an opulent bosom, moreover, he knew that he would marry one, fulfilling his dream of a perfect and idealised love. (82 mins.)
Director: Patrice Leconte
“ Offers a solution anticipating the question, "Where do love stories go once the passion's gone?" - perversely sexy, provocatively bittersweet. ” - Bernard Hamel
 
7.
Singapore Sling (1990)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  
A man searching for his long-lost lover is kidnapped by her killers, an insane, mother-daughter duo, and they force him to commit various sexual atrocities with them. (111 mins.)
“ Bold & depraved...a monster's ball! Impulses so lewd it makes black humor blush. No more troubling than the standard-violent-gore ingredient in commercial products, just a different aesthetic; more akin to black art: where perversion's deepest compulsion taunts consequence.

Takes its cue from 40's Hollywood noir, framed in gorgeous black & white photography. Strangely hypnotic - combined with moody music and clever narrative ascends b-movie schlock. Rarely has debauchery drawn artistic circles around nobility as to be inviting. Those who look for film to traverse boundaries that broaden cinematic expectations (but actually demands it): this one's for the ages! ” - Bernard Hamel
 
8.
Metropolitan (1990)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
A group of young upper-class Manhattanites are blithely passing through the gala debutante season, when an unusual outsider joins them and stirs them up. (98 mins.)
Director: Whit Stillman
“ Tasty dialogue (Chris Eigeman at table). Members only club where the only requirements are wit and inertia, challenging the world to grow up...without them. ” - Bernard Hamel
 
9.
Nouvelle vague (1990)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
Composed entirely by literary quotations from many different sources and from several historical periods... (90 mins.)
“ Beautifully shot, a sonic symphony. Hyper-kinetic & literate heavy (even silence has say). Contentment or existence?...seem to run parallel lives as if answers were separate from questions; appearing to each other as foreign objects trying to reconcile the same language while they tally heavy losses.

Aptly titled; thirty years after Godard laid foundation, his art form endures a deconstruction of film: accumulating those loose fragments that link our past to re-examine its possibilities - as if it were new again. ” - Bernard Hamel
 
10.
Reversal of Fortune (1990)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
Wealthy Sunny von Bülow lies brain-dead, husband Claus guilty of attempted murder; but he says he's innocent and hires Alan Dershowitz for his appeal. (111 mins.)
“ Fascinating court caper. Individual motives camped under the same roof; a house of cards with an ironic tone that never tips its hand. ” - Bernard Hamel
 
11.
The Local Stigmatic (1990)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  
Two symbiotic sociopaths play obscurely deviant mind games with each other while engaging in perversely brutal acts of violence against victims apparently chosen at random. (56 mins.)
“ Beautifully savage...a verbal tango. Envy & vanity swim in sexually current events that shape their appearance. Foreplay takes the role of grotesques staging their reflections in disguised exaggeration - smoke and circus mirrors; a tug of war where the two-headed monster tightens the noose, while its executioners provide them enough rope. ” - Bernard Hamel
 
12.
The Law (1990)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
Set in a pre-colonial African past, Tilai is about an illicit love affair and its consequences. Saga... (81 mins.)
“ An immovable feast. Sparse & stark; the sand & gravel art: Bressonian bareness stripped of convention, slows to gentle patter where directness yields incidental humor in monotonous rhythm that never strikes a false chord.

Individual laws of equality subject to universal morality it upholds - compassion unaccustomed to callous hands that etched in stone the mold of collective harmony. No different from "modern civilization's" progression towards liberty: the ease by which loyalty to personal conviction finds gentle acceptance in the face of hardened tradition. ” - Bernard Hamel
 
13.
The Grifters (1990)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.0/10 X  
A small-time conman has torn loyalties between his estranged mother and new girlfriend--both of whom are high-stakes grifters with their own angles to play. (110 mins.)
Director: Stephen Frears
“ A sort of hustler's handbook. Survival of the shiftiest: sugar daddies & bad-ass mamas cookin' up home made pies. Technicolor noir, stylish grit; but enough venom (from that most sordid of pulp writers, Jim Thompson) oozes through. ” - Bernard Hamel
 
14.
Without You I'm Nothing (1990)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  
Sandra Bernhard stars in a studio version of her off-Broadway show, blending re-enactments of the original show's pieces with concept vignettes and 'testimonials' to underscore the relationship between a performer and an audience. (89 mins.)
Director: John Boskovich
“ An Avant-Garde cabaret. Beatnik Bernhard and her jazzy rips plays like one long monologue spliced into animated tableaux: the art of discomfort (proud self-portrait never shown publicly). Absurdly melodic, but with undertones of lament - a requiem for repressive times; historical footnotes who tapped their own beat, where modern cynicism claimed title that never dared self mockery. ” - Bernard Hamel
 
15.
Trust (1990)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
After being thrown away from home, Maria encounters a lady who complains of not having children. Almost getting raped, she ends up in an abandoned house, where she meets Matthew. When a baby is kidnapped Maria sets out to find the lady. (107 mins.)
Director: Hal Hartley
“ Fassbinder-like melodrama. Characters seem to edit their own dialogue as they discharge rather than speak, discarding all ceremony - dead pan alley coupled with it's rumbling, semi-automatic delivery challenges you on its own turf. ” - Bernard Hamel
 
16.
La désenchantée (1990)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  
Seventeen-year-old Beth is just finishing school, and lives in Paris with her bedridden mother and younger brother... (78 mins.)
Director: Benoît Jacquot
“ Naturalistic piece, an interlude. Old world romance pays heavy debt to modern functionability of convenience & necessity (leaves little room for magic); love by default. In our quest for order anticipation is dulled, inadequate to surprise - money isn't shy and youth's a short term loan. Not that a new life offers better results, only no obligations where the choices are hers, defined not by rebellion but a state of grace. ” - Bernard Hamel
 
17.
Everybody Wins (1990)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.0/10 X  
A seeming good Samaritan (Debra Winger) hires a private detective (Nolte) to prove a teen sitting in prison on a murder charge is innocent... (97 mins.)
Director: Karel Reisz
“ Bizarre noir. Atmospheric dream-logic à la Lynch: you can't round out something with this many edges. Masked humor plays straight with crooked truths seen as angles (traditional element being ol' shamus gets stiffed...from his point of view).

Winger plays the tricky twist, adding another dementia to the femme fatale. You can't overthink an eclectic mystery (most significant clue being the title). A unique approach to an old setup that defies expectations - particularly if you have none. ” - Bernard Hamel
 
18.
My Father's Glory (1990)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
A young boy's life in turn-of-the-century France. Marcel, witnesses the success of his teacher father... (105 mins.)
Director: Yves Robert
“ Little light in the lens; like 6th grade homework (Cheaper by the Dozen?). Pastoral watercolor has tendency to force "cute": comic book drawings & silent film sketches; but skillfully carves nostalgia's genuine tone out of boy's fascination with father's god-like figure, skirting sentimental trap with smarts.

Horse & buggy portrait - nice trot without the pomp and hurry amid frantic cuts associated with this material. Backseat drive with window down, sleeves flapping...a cool easy breeze. ” - Bernard Hamel
 
19.
Open Doors (1990)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
Tommaso Scalia is a man who commits three murders: he killed his superior who sacked him, he kills the man who replaced him... (108 mins.)
Director: Gianni Amelio
“ Fair dose of hysterics (arrangement by mutual accord, more bass than treble); where judge serves as counterpoint: the slow burn of the thinking man. He locks his doors at night because he's a realist, while questions remain open as ideals.

Doesn't pander social issues that rant pedantic & hypocritical; rather a platform on which observation requires distance - sedative tone above reactionary din balances measures equally: recognition & opportunity as alternatives to judgment lighten the weight. ” - Bernard Hamel
 
20.
Love at Large (1990)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.8/10 X  
Vampish miss Dolan hires hardboiled P.I. Harry Dobbs to tail her shady boyfriend. Harry realizes that the man leads a double life but then his client disappears. Harry teams up with his own tail, P.I. Stella Wynkowski, to clear things up. (97 mins.)
Director: Alan Rudolph
“ Perfect for a gray afternoon and the day off. Left-footed gumshoe has horse by the wrong tail; though occasionally stumbles over miscues & sags around the middle, stays fit to course: never heightens into parody or slows for false sentiment (fast track to mediocre comedies). One-trick-pony who's no thoroughbred - a Rudolph shuffle of dicks & damsels that eases before it strains. ” - Bernard Hamel
 
21.
A Tale of Springtime (1990)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
Simple conversations engender complicated human interactions. Jeanne is open and even-tempered, a philosophy teacher at a lycée... (108 mins.)
Director: Éric Rohmer
“ Not as fulfilling as the usual Rohmer, but intriguing, nonetheless. Even with a lesser payoff, Rohmer is never about getting there, it's the walk up. ” - Bernard Hamel
 
22.
Henry & June (1990)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  
In 1931 Paris, Anais Nin meets Henry Miller and his wife June. Intrigued by them both, she begins expanding... (136 mins.)
Director: Philip Kaufman
“ Theatrically contrived, comes off as stagy; but when not fulfilling its dramatic obligations, the spontaneity is lax enough to make you yearn for 30's Paris Bohemia...and what we've lost: the openness of discovery's liberation through artistic necessity and sexual gamble, where there was enough space to fit time in. ” - Bernard Hamel
 
23.
The Match Factory Girl (1990)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
Iris has a dead-end job in a match-factory, lives with her dour and forbidding parents, and her social life is a disaster... (68 mins.)
Director: Aki Kaurismäki
“ Could have used a little more flesh, but it's all Kaurismaki - although a little heavy handed, tenderly crafted with a minimilist refinement. ” - Bernard Hamel
 
24.
Miller's Crossing (1990)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
Tom Regan, an advisor to a Prohibition-era crime boss, tries to keep the peace between warring mobs but gets caught in divided loyalties. (115 mins.)
Director: Joel Coen
“ Bordering on caricature, along with the occasional (and obligatory) Coen silliness; but with a hard bite to it - so if you like your poison with 30's gangsters spitting Chandler gab, then take a shot. ” - Bernard Hamel
 
25.
The Voice of the Moon (1990)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  
The amusing and entertaining adventures of a recently released mental patient and his band of misfits, discover conspiracies to concur while looking for love. (122 mins.)
“ Convoluted as a whole, but taken as vignettes are masterfully done (Benigni & Fellini is a surrealist's dream unto itself). What comes through is his pure love of film which is unsurpassed - life as canvas for images it inspires. Made more poignant for being the maestro's last celebration of friends and lovers; old desires with younger memories.

Time is running out of space, as silence allows him to hear the voice of his imagination: a circus in the stars..."I love to remember, more than to live. And besides, what's the difference?" ” - Bernard Hamel