Tag Archives: Theresa Russell

Black Widow (1987, Bob Rafelson)

Black Widow is an odd film. Ronald Bass’s script starts being about Debra Winger as a Justice Department analyst who can’t get her male colleagues to take her seriously when she discovers a woman (Theresa Russell) killing her rich husbands. The film never discusses Russell’s motive, though one can assume they’re awful guys since every guy in Black Widow is a sexist jerk. Even the nicer guys are still sexist jerks. Or at least mild perverts.

Rafelson and Bass juxtapose all Winger’s opposition with Russell seducing a new husband–Nicol Williamson. Williamson’s fantastic, by the way; easily the best performance in the film.

But then once Russell discovers Winger is after her, the movie moves to Hawaii where the two women have a bonding movie together. They see the sights, have some vaguely homoerotic scenes together. The trip to Hawaii doesn’t serve the film at all, just the cast and crew who got a paid vacation.

And in Hawaii, Winger falls for this perfect Indochinese millionaire, played by Sami Frey (who looks way too young to be the older gentleman he’s portraying). He’s a great guy though, nothing like the pigs she encountered earlier. Must be the accent.

Rafelson’s direction is acceptable. Good photography from Conrad L. Hall, truly great editing from John Bloom.

Both Russell and Winger give fine technical performances, but they can’t overcome the script. Terry O’Quinn, D.W. Moffett and Diane Ladd excel in small parts.

Black Widow‘s tedious and shockingly predictable. It’s downhill from the start.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Bob Rafelson; written by Ronald Bass; director of photography, Conrad L. Hall; edited by John Bloom; music by Michael Small; production designer, Gene Callahan; produced by Harold Schneider; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Debra Winger (Alexandra), Theresa Russell (Catharine), Sami Frey (Paul), Dennis Hopper (Ben), Nicol Williamson (William), Terry O’Quinn (Bruce), Lois Smith (Sara), D.W. Moffett (Michael), Leo Rossi (Detective Ricci), Mary Woronov (Shelley), Rutanya Alda (Irene), James Hong (Shin) and Diane Ladd (Etta).


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Impulse (1990, Sondra Locke)

Impulse is somewhat interesting as a piece of pseudo-feminist filmmaking. Not to suggest Locke’s a poser. It’s just her intentions can’t compete with her script.

The script appears to have come from two actors turned writers. Leigh Chapman seems to have been brought in to female-up the script.

There are some really nice little moments, like suitor Jeff Fahey being turned away by Russell because she doesn’t need the male comforting. There’s an effective scene concerning their differences.

But then there’s an awkward love scene; it’s hard not to think was simply put in as a love scene directed by a female director sort of as critic bait–to give them something to talk about it. It’s a useless scene.

Russell’s decent, nothing more. There’s a lot of focus on her hair.

Her character’s constantly undercover and wearing a wire and her superior officer (George Dzundza in a bad performance) is supposed to be monitoring the wire. But the wire never works, so she’s always put in these dangerous situations and he never worries about them because–well, fifty-fifty between him trusting her ability and his dislike for her because she rejects his advances.

There’s a whole film in just that conflict… a better one.

Fahey’s fine. Alan Rosenberg’s funny as his assistant. Lynne Thigpen is good as Russell’s psychiatrist. Nick Savage turns up to remind the viewer “Hill Street Blues” is more realistic than eighties cop movies.

Impulse is dismissible, which it never should have been.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Sondra Locke; screenplay by John DeMarco and Leigh Chapman, based on a story by DeMarco; director of photography, Dean Semler; edited by John W. Wheeler; music by Michel Colombier; production designer, William A. Elliot; produced by Andre Morgan and Albert S. Ruddy; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Theresa Russell (Lottie Mason), Jeff Fahey (Stan), George Dzundza (Lt. Joe Morgan), Alan Rosenberg (Charley Katz), Nicholas Mele (Rossi), Eli Danker (Dimarjian), Charles McCaughan (Frank Munoff), Lynne Thigpen (Dr. Gardner), Shawn Elliott (Tony Peron), Angelo Tiffe (Luke), Christopher Lawford (Steve) and Nick Savage (Edge).


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Kafka (1991, Steven Soderbergh)

I wonder how the producers sold Jeremy Irons on the film. It was his first major role after his Oscar and it immediately followed, so he probably hadn’t won when he started filming Kafka… however, imagine if they’d advertised the film as “Academy Award Winner Jeremy Irons running through the empty streets of Prague.”

Kafka’s Soderbergh’s first film after Sex, Lies, and Videotape and it’s an exceptional disappointment. All Soderbergh has to do in Kafka is set-up German impressionist shots to match the script’s built-in references–there’s a doctor named Murnau, a town called Orloc (from Murnau’s Nosferatu) and I think I saw a Metropolis poster. Soderbergh is a filmmaker concerned with the human condition and it’s entirely absent from Kafka. Kafka is a gimmick within a gimmick… There’s a certain cuteness–wink-wink–of Kafka in a Kafkaesque adventure, but the adventure is so incredibly lame–and derivative–watching the film is a chore. I suppose it did lead to Dark City–writer Lem Dobbs took whole ideas from Kafka and put them in that one–but it’s a lot like The Element of Crime.

Kafka did remind me–in its aloof and blatant humanity–a lot of Soderbergh’s Traffic. There’s a visible disconnect in some of Soderbergh’s films, when it’s obvious the material isn’t engaging him, so he just busies himself with the camera. Kafka has a lot of such busying. It does have some nice performances–Jeroen Krabbé is excellent, Joel Grey is mildly amusing, it’s one of Armin Mueller-Stahl’s good performances. Jeremy Irons is fine too (he doesn’t have to do an accent). Still, I knew there was major trouble from the beginning… Theresa Russell is the female lead and she’s terrible from her first scene.

I wonder if Kafka would have gotten a better critical response if it had come out before Barton Fink instead of after it. Lem Dobbs’s script–with its goofy characters and particular humor–is an obvious Coen mimic. It’s just a useless film… and, while I realize it’s not supposed to be a historically accurate portrayal of Kafka’s life, apparently, in the film’s world, the First World War never happened. That historical omission is much more interesting than anything else going on and it really shouldn’t be.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed and edited by Steven Soderbergh; written by Lem Dobbs; director of photography, Walt Lloyd; music by Cliff Martinez; production designer, Gavin Bocquet; produced by Harry Benn and Stuart Cornfeld; released by Miramax Films.

Starring Jeremy Irons (Kafka), Theresa Russell (Gabriela), Joel Grey (Burgel), Ian Holm (Doctor Murnau), Jeroen Krabbé (Bizzlebek), Armin Mueller-Stahl (Grubach), Alec Guinness (The Chief Clerk), Brian Glover (Castle Henchman), Keith Allen (Assistant Ludwig), Simon McBurney (Assistant Oscar) and Robert Flemyng (The Keeper of the Files).