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Tucson Weekly Film Clips

AUGUST 3, 1998: 

DÉJÀ VU. Director Henry Jaglom skates down the border between profundity and hokum in this exploration of true love versus compromise. Stephen Dillane and Victoria Foyt (Jaglom's watery-eyed, appealingly emotive wife, who co-wrote the screenplay with him) star as a Brit and a Los Angelean who seem to be natural soulmates, cosmically fated to be together, and all that jazz. Too bad they're already entrenched in long-term relationships. Though Jaglom's loose, cinema-verité style is very much in evidence, he tries hard to make every step of the romance follow a logical, understandable progression, which gets to be a problem--he keeps using a nail gun on the kinds of details where a thumbtack would suffice. (At a key point, Dillane and Foyt actually exclaim to each other, "You're married!," "You have a fiancée!," "You're married!," "You have a fiancee!," revealing an embarrassingly wide rift between cinema-verité and realism.) Then there's the mystical "surprise" ending, which plays like an episode of The Twilight Zone, as directed by Fabio. Jaglom may be an old friend of Orson Welles (in fact, Déjà Vu appears to be based on a memorable line of dialogue from Citizen Kane), but an auteur he's not. On the plus side, it's refreshing how the two jilted characters are rendered so sympathetically (unlike in Sleepless in Seattle and similar films), and the charmingly well-aged Vanessa Redgrave livens up her every scene as a veteran free spirit. --Woodruff

JANE AUSTEN'S MAFIA! This latest venture from writer/director Jim Abrahams, one of those responsible for bringing us Airplane! (1980) and The Naked Gun (1988), fails to achieve the level of satire present in these past successes. This film probably makes sense if you're 9 years old, when the mere presence of bodily functions and breasts actually provided some kind of cultural commentary. Otherwise, Mafia! is but a lame parody consisting largely of uncritical references to Casino, Showgirls, and Forrest Gump, among others. A plot was difficult to discern through the dizzying haze of flatulence, but it seemed to follow a father (the late Lloyd Bridges) and son (Jay Mohr) through their involvement with the mob, boobies, and pull-my-finger jokes. The ending is surprisingly abrupt, but certainly the alternative (a second puke montage?) is far worse.--Higgins

SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. Don't let the earnest, tony previews fool you: This is a terrifying and brutally violent movie. Most horror movies don't have a fraction of the gore, and anyone who takes children needs to have his head examined. Naturally, since this is Steven Spielberg in Oscar mode, it's gore with a higher purpose: to render the you-are-there reality of World War II, a historical turning point that most of us do indeed take for granted. That it does. The plot follows the reluctant efforts of a captain (Tom Hanks, doing a respectable job although I still have a hard time taking him seriously) and his small crew (played by a who's-who list of indy-film actors) to find a young soldier for P.R. purposes. It's an unlikely premise, but it allows for a tour through several common locations and situations during the 1944 campaign to liberate France. The opening scene, which depicts the troublesome Omaha Beach landing during the invasion of Normandy, is a stunner: sharp editing, swift hand-held shots, and gruesome attention to detail make it one of the most arresting war scenes ever filmed. Over and over, Spielberg dumps the shock and fear of death in your lap. The movie's furious "war is hell" action lets up for occasional character development and ambiguous incidents, which only make the returns to mayhem that much rougher. Saving Private Ryan's primary fault is that it's so much more jarring than it is moving; the film comes considerably closer to experience than to dramatic art. For some, this imbalance will probably be too much. If you have no desire to understand how it might actually feel to be in combat, you're advised to skip it. --Woodruff

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