X-Files "Pilot" and "Deep Throat"
Gillian Anderson, with introduction by
creator Chris Carter
I never managed to jump on the X-Files bandwagon. By the time I noticed it was on, the series was full of in-jokes and sly references that I just didn't understand. Tired of all of my Files-watching friends haranguing me about the excellence of the series, I decided to rent the first few episodes in an effort to catch up. I do have to say that it is great TV. Full of shadowy villains and futile, crusade-loving heroes, the first few episodes are fun to watch. Duchovny's earnest Fox Mulder is the perfect foil for Anderson's staunch Dana Scully and I am intrigued by the possibilities for their relationship as well as to see how the writers will manage to have all concrete evidence destroyed by the end of each episode, enough so that I am tempted to rent the next few to see where it all leads. And, please, those of you who know, don't tell me. Without the suspense of watching the twists and turns of the creator's mind unfold, the series would be just another clichéd story about two TV cops trapped within an immense bureaucracy.
-- Adrienne Martini
D: Michael Apted; with Hugh Grant, Gene Hackman, Sarah Jessica Parker.
Yes, it takes a certain level of suspension of disbelief to buy Hugh Grant as a doctor and Sarah Jessica Parker as an un-glamorous nurse. But once you get beyond the preposterousness of the casting and ease into Apted's intensely creepy little morality play about human experimentation, Extreme Measures becomes more than just another medical thriller with a dumb title. Especially timely in light of today's cloning debate, Hackman is the perfect evil genius pulling all the strings. Apted proves to be a master at under-lighting and using off-colors to make even the most mundane of situations seem oozing with depravity, and Danny Elfman provides one of his creepiest scores to date. All of this comes together in such a particularly nasty way as to make the medical profession look worse than politicians. But what the hell; I never liked doctors in the first place.
-- Christopher Null
When thinking about national cinemas, British cinema is rarely the first to spring to mind. As Brit film critic Peter Wollen writes, the British have been thought of as "notoriously unvisual, unartistic, and uncinematic." But as British director Stephen Frears points out in his collection of musings on British cinema, Typically British, screened several weeks ago during the SXSW film festival and part of the Austin Film Society's Century of Cinema series, British cinema is something to celebrate. To do just that, we thought we might highlight some of the films Frears mentions in Typically British.
If you or someone you know thinks of British cinema as uncinematic, Terence Davies' 1989 Distant Voices, Still Lives is sure to be one of the reasons why. Slow, plodding, and methodical, this film about 1950s working class England may put many viewers to sleep. More a reminiscence than a string of plot events, Distant Voices is nonetheless highly lyrical and stylized to the point that Davies creates a new cinematic vocabulary to visualize his subject. Despite its nostalgic bent, the film really may say more about the time in which it was made than about its ostensible setting. There's so much communal folk singing that by the end of the film, you'll be singing along.
Goodbye Mr. Chips hardly needs an introduction; nominated in Hollywood's landmark year 1939 for seven Academy Awards, Sam Wood's well-known classic garnered a Best Actor award for Robert Donat as the
lovable public school teacher.
Goodbye Mr. Chips epitomizes that sentimental type of humor that Alexander Macken-drick's 1951 The Man in the White Suit shies away from in favor of a more barbed trickle of satire aimed towards the highly bureaucratized British textile industry. Ealing Studio stalwart Alec Guinness stars with Joan Greenwood as a fumbling scientist who invents a fabric that never gets dirty, repels water, and never needs replacing. Watching the industry heads scramble to get ahold of the magic fabric and suppress its production which would inevitably kill off the need for any future fabric industry is intensely hilarious. One critic has called this comedy "touched by Kafka," but more essentially, all things British leave their mark on this film.
A sense of Kafkaesque alienation nevertheless imbues Lindsay Anderson's 1963 treatise on impoverished family and rugby life, This Sporting Life, starring Richard Harris as Frank and Rachel Roberts as his austere landlady who steadfastly attempts to refuse falling in love with him. Exemplary of the Angry Young Man sensibility prevalent in British plays and films of this period, This Sporting Life evokes an England rarely seen in more "chipper" British films.
Neither chipper nor angry, Hitchcock's Blackmail is an early (1929) film by the suspense master that Hitchcock fans seem to miss out on because it is either hard to find or thought inaccessible in comparison to his later, glossier Hollywood productions. The first British film to have sound, Blackmail is, of course, about murder (in this case, the murder of a particularly lecherous young dandy) and the Scotland Yard detectives who go about unraveling the story of who done it. Blackmail is fascinating to watch even if you don't approach it as a "Hitchcock film" eerily presaging many of his later films' concerns. -- Claiborne K.H. Smith