New Reviews: The Hoaxster and the Hero
- Portland Tribune - Features
Movies: 'Abel Raises Cain' (NR), 'Strike' (NR)
Edited by Lee Williams
'Abel Raises Cain' (NR)
'A nude horse is a rude horse.' This was the slogan of SINA, the Society for the Indecency to Naked Animals, an early-1960s organization that earned a lot of press for its campaign to prevent animals such as horses, cows and dogs from exposing their private parts.
After appearances on 'The Tonight Show' and 'CBS Evening News,' the group finally was revealed to be a hoax, the brainchild of one-time stand-up comedian Alan Abel.
The amazing success of Abel's joke seems to have created a sort of addiction. He continued to pull off assorted media stunts rather than, say, getting a job.
Chronicled lovingly by his daughter, Jenny Abel, Alan Abel's career as a prankster is fascinating and a little sad. The daughter implies heavily in her voice-over narration that her father never really got his due.
While accounts of the pranks themselves make for great viewing, the film drags a bit as we follow the aging and eccentric father, and his devoted wife, in their daily lives.
Still, the point is made: We live in a society that deserves to be skewered far more pointedly than it usually is. Many viewers will walk away with scheming glints in their eyes, trying to dream up a clever hoax of their own.
- Anne Marie DiStefano
Imagine 'Norma Rae' starring Giulietta Masina, of Fellini movie fame, or perhaps something like 'Life Is Beautiful' ('Labor Is Beautiful'?) with a female Roberto Benigni.
That should give you some idea of the film Volker Schlöndorff ('The Tin Drum') has made to celebrate Agnieszka Kowalska, an industrious shipyard worker who becomes an inspiration to the Polish labor movement from the late '60s to the early '80s.
Reportedly, Kowalska herself is less than pleased with the film, which wisely (evasively?) calls itself 'a ballad based upon historical events.'
As played by Katharina Thalbach, our heroine is a spunky, saucer-eyed naif, like Masina with a touch of Benigni and Sally Field. You'll either find her a delight or a two-hour itch you can't scratch.
The rest of the movie is as broad, rushed and unconvincing as it is sincere and puppy-doggish.
- Pat Holmes
Also new this week:
Italian documentarian Davide Ferrario retraced the thousand-mile journey of author Primo Levi 60 years after Levi stepped out of an Auschwitz concentration camp to his freedom.
What the director found was a Europe very different - and frighteningly akin in some ways - to the Europe Levi rediscovered earlier. A Polish steel mill teeters toward closure; a once-thriving city near Chernobyl now is a ghost town; and toward the West, neo-Nazis seemingly rouse a new generation.
Ferrario's film 'Primo Levi's Journey,' a candid and cautionary exploration, plays at the Hollywood Theatre on Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 5 and Jan. 6.
The Northwest Film Center offers another hallucinogenic dose of David Lynch this weekend.
Lynch's 2006 cinematic puzzle 'Inland Empire' stars Laura Dern as an actress losing her grip on reality during the filming of a movie helmed by a devilish director, played by Jeremy Irons.
The surreal journey embarks 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 6, at Whitsell Auditorium.
The Laurelhurst Theater kicks off a month devoted to comedies with a lesser-known nugget from the John Cusack canon.
In 'Better Off Dead,' he of the eternally-sad-puppy-dog face is a heartbroken, suicidal teen skier who develops a crush on a French foreign exchange student and finds a reason to live - and love again. Oh, and there's Van Halen and Hall and Oates on the soundtrack (Jan. 4 through Jan. 10).