Out Of The Ordinary

Perfect films have been made, and Ordinary People, Robert Redford's 1980 directorial debut that won four Oscars (including best director), is one. The story of an idyllic family unit destroyed by the accidental drowning of the oldest son, is a not-so-subtle plug for the benefits of psychotherapy, which saves the surviving brother and father and their relationship. It is also an overt critique of the reputed WASP preference for emotional repression and flawless surfaces. The message is clear: Those who don't face and express their feelings will lose everything dearest to them.

Ordinary People
Tuesday, November 4
Witte Museum
3801 Broadway
Despite this agenda, the movie is emotionally rich and cathartic because of strong directing, tight editing, and outstanding performances by the entire cast. Mary Tyler Moore, usually remembered as a goofy and lovable TV comedian, is frightening and tragic as a mother who cannot forgive the transgression on her formerly perfect life, focusing her anger and resentment on the surviving son in a textbook example of passive-aggressive behavior. Judd Hirsch, also more famous at the time for his grungily flamboyant role on Taxi, makes the ideal therapist, equal parts cattle prod and warm cup of cocoa.

It is mystifying that Donald Sutherland wasn't nominated for his portrayal of a dedicated and loving father and husband torn between his wife's and son's needs. As was recently said of Robert Downey Jr., Sutherland is that rare actor who becomes the character.

Pachelbel's Canon in various permutations forms the minimal soundtrack for the film, and the plaintive notes, which build into a full choir of voices somehow joyous and sorrowful at once, complement the sad but redemptive storyline and the midwestern fall and winter in which it takes place. Redford has more recently created poetic but undisciplined paeans to the American frontier. But here there are no wasted shots, no gratuitous or overtly explicatory scenes. He trusts the actors to carry the film, which they do beautifully.

Ordinary People screens as part of the Witte Museum's "Fine Line: Mental Health/Mental Illness" exhibit. A discussion with medical professionals and film critic Bob Polunsky will follow the screening.
By Elaine Wolff

The historic Cameo Theatre (1123 E. Commerce) will reopen on Friday, October 31, as the Cameo Center, with screenings of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. The 7 and 9 p.m. shows are open to all ages, and the 11 p.m. show is for viewers age 21 and up. Tickets are $10, and will benefit San Antonio AIDS Services. Reservations can be made at 47-CAMEO. (courtesy photo)

Cinematic Triptychs

On Thursday, October 30, ArtPace presents new work by British artist and filmmaker Isaac Julien - Paradise/Omeros (2002) and Baltimore (2003). Both works are three-screen, 20-minute DVD projections on view in the Hudson Show Room through mid-January. During his 1999 ArtPace residency, Julien produced the stunning film installation The Long Road to Mazatlan, a queer cowboy saga that earned him a 2001 Turner Prize nomination. Julien's cinematic triptychs parallel the artist's obsession with cultural identity and its many modes. Paradise/Omeros was commissioned for Documenta 11 (Kassel, Germany, 2002), and draws its name from the epic poem Omeros by Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott. The filmmaker fuses this modern Homeric tale with an allegorical visual drama shot in exotic St. Lucia and London, stippled with notions born of Western popular culture and set to a score by composer Paul Gladstone Reid. Julien actively explores the roles of hybridity, liminality, and individual effort in the development of contemporary Creole identity.

& Baltimore
Thursday, October 30
445 N. Main
Baltimore challenges the relevance of time and place in establishing cultural context - and by extension, black identity. The artist visually references three distinct yet disparate institutions in the urban Baltimore area - the Great Blacks in Wax Museum, the Peabody Institute, and the Walters Art Gallery - in a composition that momentarily blurs the straightforward trajectory. Julien also draws on earlier works entitled Vagabondia and Three, and research compiled for his most recent documentary, Baadasssss Cinema, which ran on the Independent Film Channel. Baltimore is a retro romp through blaxploitation's heyday and a nonlinear futuristic sci-fi fantasy featuring the decidedly bad ass actor/director Melvin Van Peebles. Julien is a 2001 recipient of the Eugene McDermott Award for Visual Arts and Frameline's Lifetime Achievement Award (2002). There will be a walk-through with the artist at the gallery at 7 p.m.
By Anjali Gupta

Scroll to read more Movie Reviews & News articles
Join the San Antonio Current Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state.
Help us keep this coverage going with a one-time donation or an ongoing membership pledge.


Join SA Current Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.