The movie is a virtual catalogue of the inanities of such topics as the politics of lensless eyeglasses, the temperature of Belgian Waffles, and the need for a "bag snagger" to retrieve the plastic bags that get caught in the trees that grow in Brooklyn. -- (Blue in the Face) In good hands, there is something very moving about a small slice of the lives of people who never leave home, and this movie is in good hands. (The Run of the Country)

BLUE IN THE FACE+THE RUN OF THE COUNTRY

A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.


"Blue in the Face" and "The Run of the Country" are two small films that fill the screen with an overwhelming sense of place. Brooklyn in the one and Ireland in the other are starring players.

Wayne Wang and Paul Auster had the whimsical idea of continuing to run their cameras after they wound up the filming of last year's "Smoke." In extemporaneous collaboration with their actors, they went right on shooting the episodic life that flows in and out of the smoke shop run with benign welcome by proprietor Auggie Wren (Harvey Keitel).

As the first film did, this one ambles along in slow motion until finally, half way through, the audience settles in to the rhythm. People who have very little to do hang out at Auggie's, discussing banal subjects in extraordinary depth. They talk about nothing until they are indeed "blue in the face," and until we slip quietly into the movie's gentle spell.

The movie is filmed entirely in uninterrupted ten-minute segments. Jim Jarmusch talks his way through the agonies of giving up smoking. Lily Tomlin searches for a proper Belgian waffle. Roseanne and Michael J. Fox find the beat, and the regulars keep the smoke shop running. But it is Lou Reed who steals the day with a monologue that connects the pieces. It's his Brooklyn, we finally understand, that gives this slight film its charm. "I get scared in Sweden," he says. "Everything works."

The movie is a virtual catalogue of the inanities of such topics as the politics of lensless eyeglasses, the temperature of Belgian Waffles, and the need for a "bag snagger" to retrieve the plastic bags that get caught in the trees that grow in Brooklyn. The whole thing moves at the pace of the tortoise, with no finish line in sight, which is, of course, the purpose.

"The Run of the Country" is saved from its material by a very appealing and accomplished cast. It wasn't easy. Consider the elements: widowed dad, perfect mom, dutiful son, love, pregnancy, disapproval. Set them in a glorious Irish landscape, add the customs of the country, and it careens ever more toward the familiar. For good measure, toss in the Irish "troubles" and the Catholic Church. Can that many cliches do anything but compound themselves?

But don't leave yet. In good hands, there is something very moving about a small slice of the lives of people who never leave home, and this movie is in good hands. Albert Finney is practiced but fine as the abusive father. Matt Keeslar and Victoria Smurfit are thoroughly winning as the young lovers, and Anthony Brophy is a real original as Prunty, the kind of best friend everybody needs. Predictability gives way to pleasure because of these fine performances.

These movies have in common fine actors who capture the feel and texture of very ordinary life in Brooklyn and Ireland. That's an accomplishment.


Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 491
Studio : Miramax & Columbia
Rating : R & R
Running Time: 2h30m & 1h49m


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