2 items from 1999
Kevin Rafferty and Frank Keraudren's documentary, now playing exclusively at New York's Film Forum, is an impressionistic collage of a film, very similar in style to "The Atomic Cafe", Rafferty's highly acclaimed collection of vintage Cold War footage.
Although somewhat lacking in terms of coherence and organization, "The Last Cigarette" is an undeniably entertaining assemblage of film clips and assorted visual materials relating to the cultural and social significance of tobacco and smoking.
"Cigarette" uses as its narrative spine a series of clips from the C-SPAN coverage of the 1994 congressional hearings on tobacco, in which a group of tobacco company executives squared off against a prosecutorial committee. Neither side comes off particularly well, but it's fascinating to watch the CEOs squirm as they hypocritically defend their positions against their accusers, who are not above using such tactics as hauling out an asthmatic 7-year-old to make an emotional speech.
Otherwise, the documentary is an assemblage of smoking-related film clips taken from Hollywood movies (arguably the most famous smoking scene, from "Dark Victory", is inexplicably missing); vintage promotional clips and TV ads for various cigarette brands; scenes from old educational movies in which the deleterious effects of nicotine on laboratory rats is vividly illustrated, and footage of celebrities such as Edward R. Murrow enjoying cigarettes, the glamour of which is negated by the knowledge that he would later die of lung cancer.
There's some truly fascinating stuff on display, including scenes of advertising genius Leo Burnett describing the creation of his seminal ad campaign for the Marlboro brand, and, more amusingly, clips from "smokesploitation" fetish movies which simply depict comely young women taking long, luxurious drags on cigarettes.
"The Last Cigarette", which uses ominous bursts of Bernard Herrmann's music for various Hitchcock films as its musical accompaniment, is longer on style than intelligence and rarely provides much in the way of illumination or information. But the filmmakers demonstrate a wonderful talent for uncovering amusing and relevant archival materials and assembling them entertainingly in a most raffish fashion.
THE LAST CIGARETTE
New Yorker Films
Writers/directors: Kevin Rafferty, Frank Keraudren
Producers: Gerd Hecker, Steve Hendel, Kevin Rafferty
Editor: Frank Keraudren
Running time -- 82 minutes
No MPAA rating
Director Manuel Gomez Pereira, who has achieved great commercial success in Spain with such erotic comedies as "Boca a Boca", founders a bit with "Between Your Legs", a Hitchcockian thriller that unsuccessfully straddles the border between suspense and camp.
The presence of such major Spanish stars (and heartthrobs) as Javier Bardem and Victoria Abril, not to mention the salacious title, should guarantee some business if the film gets picked up in the States. It recently received its U.S. premiere at the Miami Film Festival.
Beginning with a credit sequence that could have been designed by Saul Bass and a musical score that sounds like it came from Bernard Herrmann, Pereira's film doesn't try to hide its influences. Using a time-shifting chronology that playfully interpolates seemingly unrelated incidents, the film details a series of implausible circumstances that result from the meeting of screenwriter Javier Bardem) and radio announcer Miranda (Abril) during their group therapy session for sex addicts. Needless to say, it isn't long before the two patients are demonstrating their problems to their mutual satisfaction.
The overly complex plot defies summarization, but among its more outrageous elements include: a sexy stranger with whom Javier has a series of phone sex encounters after they narrow escape death in a plane crash; a murder victim who shows up in the trunk of an abandoned car; Miranda's dog overdosing on antibiotics; and a police detective who shoots to death his wife, who has lost a leg after being involved in a horrible accident with the man she ran off with. Although individual scenes occasionally resonate with an atmospheric menace, the whole is much less than the sum of the parts.
It tries to be at once funny, scary and sexy, but the film doesn't really succeed in any of these departments, though with the title the latter aspect is a particular disappointment. Bardem and Abril play their over-the-top roles as straight as possible, though one gets the feeling they're dying to cut loose in the style of their earlier successes. Pereira, working from the potluck screenplay that he concocted with three others, does at least have the surface aspects of Hitchcock down and provides a stylish production that is sleekly photographed, edited and designed.
BETWEEN YOUR LEGS
Bocaboca Producciones S.A. and
Aurum Producciones S.A. and D.M.V.A. Films
With the participation of Canal Plus
Director: Manuel Gomez Pereira
Screenplay: Joaquin Oristrell, Yolanda Garcia Seranno, Jusan Luis Iborra, Manuel Gomez Pereira
Producers: Cesar Benitez, Joaquin Oristrell, Manuel Gomez Pereira
Executive producer: Cesar Benitez
Cinematography: Juan Amoros
Editor: Jose Salcedo
Music: Bernardo Bonezzi
Miranda: Victoria Abril
Javier: Javier Bardem
Felix: Carmelo Gomez
Jareno: Juan Diego
Claudio: Sergi Lopez
Juani: Maria Adanez
Running time -- 115 minutes
No MPAA ratin
2 items from 1999
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