By Stephanie Zacharek
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Charles Taylor
By Melissa Anderson
By Inkoo Kang
By Amy Nicholson
By Sam Weisberg
Religion may be a presence, but Lucas's magic kingdom is strikingly sterile. His creatures dwell in a perpetual present, devoid of sexual activity (Anakin, it is strongly hinted, was the product of an immaculate conception), historical consciousness, or even the most debased form of cultural expression (like advertising). Any of these would constitute a dangerous distraction. The Phantom Menace is simply a billboard for itself. Anyone who sees it will be experiencing it for the second time. The hype was not about the movie, the hype was the movie.
The Walter Reade has seized this week to bring back a lesser-known cult film. The Saragossa Manuscript, directed by Wojciech Has from Jan Potocki's episodic early-19th-century novel, is part Alice in Wonderland, part Arabian Nights. This three-hour Polish superproductionshot with actual people in sumptuous wide-screen black-and-whiteis a convoluted succession of stories-within- stories-within-stories, with Zbigniew Cybulski (Warsaw's answer to James Dean) playing a Spanish officer lost in the Sierra Moreno and mixing it up with all manner of hermits, ghosts, gypsies, cabalists, and bandits, not to mention smiling babes with bodice-bursting cleavage.
Has's comic, macabre extravaganza, in which everything turns out to be an elaborate stage-managed sham, first blew minds at the 1966 San Francisco Film Festival, attracting a New York hippie following six years later with a brief, postEl Topo midnight run at the old Elgin theater. Somewhere along the line, Jerry Garcia signed on as the movie's biggest booster. It was evidently the print he underwrote that was shown at the 1997 New York Film Festival.The Saragossa Manuscript is being paired with another rarely screened and highly regarded East European movie, Alexei Guerman's My Friend Ivan Lapshinthe last great Soviet movie (and the Soviet contribution to the postmodern nostalgia film)which takes a brilliant and deeply troubling Chekhovia approach to the Great Terror of the mid 1930s.
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