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By Ray Pride, Ellen Fox

NOVEMBER 9, 1998: 

The Big Chill

(1983, USA) Directed by Lawrence Kasdan. Kasdan's remake of "The Return of the Secaucus Seven" reflects on the turmoil of outgrowing the sixties. Kasdan says, "I had written the film not just from my view of the issues in the film, but also in reaction to 'Body Heat,' where I'd been cloistered with two actors in a terribly claustrophobic movie. I'd determined that my next film would have a lot of actors and that I wouldn't be stuck in an airless world." With Jeff Goldblum, Glenn Close, Tom Berenger, William Hurt, Kevin Kline, Meg Tilly. 105m. This reissue, not shown to critics, is the first in digital stereo, and allows one to revisit the Motown-tunes CD in the comfort of a movie theater. (Ray Pride)

The Inheritors

(Die Siebtelbauern) Working in an intelligent, brutally funny style that's reminiscent of the late R.W. Fassbinder, writer-director Stefan Ruzowitzky makes his debut with this story of peasant farmers getting their revenge on the rich gentleman farmers in the Austrian Alps in the 1930s. An eccentric old farmer dies, and as a revenge on his family, leaves a will that lashes out at everyone in the village, then leaves his estate to his peasants. ("I hope they beat each other to death when they fight over it," are the sage words he leaves behind.) A rare, thoughtful social drama that's also high-grade entertainment. 93m. (Ray Pride)

The Siege

Ed Zwick is one of the more versatile craftsmen working today, shifting from television ("thirtysomething," "My So-Called Life") to film ("About Last Night," "Glory") with equal aplomb. With "The Siege," a cautionary tale about the potential of American freedoms being revoked to stem the fear of terrorist attacks, Zwick and co-writers Lawrence Wright and Menno Meyjes partake both of melodrama and close-in examination of their chosen milieus. They cannily using stock figures (like Bruce Willis' blood-mad Army general) to push the plotline along while we get to soak up the details of an internecine battle between a driven FBI agent (Denzel Washington) and a troubled CIA functionary (Annette Bening) against the backdrop of a militarized New York. Working with master cinematographer Roger Deakins, Zwick finds the widescreen framing and subtle detailing that suggest the polyglot character of a contemporary metropolis, while remaining attentive to mood and portent. The clichˇ view of Zwick is that he wants to alternate social issue films with television that pores over the sociology of his peers, but he believes he's been able to grow past that. "There's a great Satchel Paige line about always staying a moving target. I don't want to conform to expectations. I also think there's a temptation for people to think they know an artist too quickly and too well. (Ray Pride)

The Wizard of Oz

Those of us who have watched "The Wizard of Oz" on the small screen may have trouble figuring if the feel of its big-screen re-release is due to re-mastering or to the fact that we're no longer watching it on twelve inches. But who cares? Judy Garland's 16-year old skin looks flushed but flawless, and the details of the costumes--like the way Ray Bolger's Mazola facepaint melds seamlessly into his ragged canvas neck--are a joy. The black-and-white Kansas scenes are actually sepia: they paint the Dust Bowl in the hues of a brown paper bag that make DorothyÕs hushed entrˇe into Technicolor that much more awesome. The audience at the Halloween preview--though vibrating throughout with the rumble of costumed children--was sincere. When Garland set into the most guileless rendition of "Over the Rainbow," the woman beside me let out a lyrical sigh. And when at last Dorothy melts the Witch, the audience found itself moved to genuine applause of gratitude, with nary a whistle or a "woo!" to be heard. Every time I watch "Oz" I notice something new. This time around, I saw the love story. We all remember how Dorothy bids farewell to the Scarecrow: "I think I'll miss you most of all." (He says nothing in response but seems to understand.) But I'd never noticed that as she leans into whisper this teary confession, passionate violins swell, and, with her face tipped towards his, if only for a moment, they look an awful lot like a scene from that other saga of a willful, dark-haired farmgirl starring Vivian Leigh (which, according to the press notes, lured Victor Fleming away from Oz three weeks shy of completion). Why the Scarecrow? Because she's known him the longest? Because the Tinman's a queen and the Cowardly Lion's too much of a chump? Much has been made of the Scarecrow's allegorical ties to the land, and, when Dorothy wakes and swears she'll never ever leave home again, it's not unreasonable to see a marriage to Hunk implicit in that promise. But what I liked best of all was the suggestion that Dorothy's not too much of a goody-goody to be caught dreaming fondly , as we all have, of someone she'd never before considered in a romantic light, but who was there, like home, all along. (Ellen Fox)

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