September/October 1985

Jane Fonda in Agnes of God, Meryl Streep in Plenty, special midsection on race films, Mantan Moreland, Oscar Micheaux, Ran, Mishima, J. Hoberman on TV’s Golden Age, Wayne Wang interview

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FONDA, STREEP AND HARE
Ordinary people making extraordinary choices in exemplary films: these are the characters played by Jane Fonda and Meryl Streep. In Agnes of God and Plenty, Hollywood’s favorite smart women wield their scalpels to probe religious ecstasy and political anomie. Marcia Pally observes and admires. With Plenty and its companion film Wetherby, David Hare proves himself a spectral satirist of post-imperial Britain. He chats knowledgeably with Steve Lawson.

MIDSECTION: A SEPARATE CAMERA
Like the Negro Baseball players before Jackie Robinson, so were black filmmakers before Sidney Poitier: scrambling to display their talents on a shoestring before a cheering home crowd. Donald Bogle reprises the undersung history of “race films,” stars like Mantan Moreland and directors like the inimitable Oscar Micheaux. And Armond White scans the plight of black artists in an “integrated” industry. Plus ten color pages of posters and sagacious comment on early black films.

JAPAN TANDEM: MISHIMA RAN
East meets West in two eagerly awaited films from Japan. Ran, Akira Kurosawa’s fifth picture in 20 years, is a free (indeed, oneiric) adaptation of King Lear with a touch of Lady Macbeth; Peter Grilli visited the set and talked with the old master who do run Ran. Paul Schrader’s violently stylized rendition of the life and works of Yukio Mishima provoked outrage among Mishima’s supporters and detractors even before it was seen in Japan. Frank Segers traces the controversy.

TV’S GOLDEN AGE (1955, ’85)
Thirty years from now, will the rediscovery of 1985’s Amazing Stories elicit the cultish thrill that sizzled through TV fans when Jackie Gleason announced he had found 75 “lost” episodes of The Honeymooners? We can’t say for sure, but we’ll bet you never thought of Ralph Kramden as Falstaff, or Alice as the goddess Kali. J. Hoberman did, though, in his Honeymooners hagiography. The other big TV news is the revival of Fifties-style suspense shows by Steven Spielberg and that crowd. Elvis Mitchell has the early poop on a quartet of promising prime-time anthologies.

JOURNALS
Three festivals: Marc Mancini from a world's fair of 21st-century technology in Tokyo; Mary Corliss amid May showers at Cannes; and Harlan Kennedy on the prowl for Esther Williams in Taormina. Also: Michale Walsh finds a sneaky Schicchi hiding in the soundtrack of John Huston's Prizzi’s Honor.

A LITTLE BIT OF ART
Dim Sum mixes Capra and Ozu in a deft and winning comedy drama. David Thomson talks with Dim Sum’s director, Wayne (Chan Is Missing) Wang.

LAS VEGAS STRIP
Onscreen, Jerome Gary’s Stripper offers tears and titters. Offscreen the action was even hotter. Scoop monger Jim Verniere went undercover for the story.

VIDEO: CENSORED!
The courts put a damper on sexy movies on TV. Lois P. Sheinfeld regrets.

PENSÉES: GROWING UP WESTERN
Richard T. Jameson likes Silverado.

LETTERS: CUBAN IMBROGLIO

BACK PAGE: QUIZ #15