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"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…


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Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

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Movie Answer Man (06/23/1996)

Q. Will we ever again be able to look down on the French for idolizing Jerry Lewis when multi-millions are paid to such as Jim Carrey and, heaven help us, the very unfunny Chris Farley? (Hank Oettinger, Chicago)

A. I personally find Carrey funnier than Jerry Lewis, but I have attended screenings of Jerry Lewis comedies in France and can promise you the French really do love him--maybe because he makes Americans look like idiots.

Q. Near the beginning of "Casablanca," Peter Lorre as Ugarte is telling Rick about two letters of transit that have been stolen from Nazi couriers who were killed in the desert. In his charmingly slimy way, Ugarte says, "...letters of transit signed by General DeGaulle. Cannot be rescinded, not even questioned." What? Why would Nazi couriers be carrying letters signed by the leader of the Free French? And why would those letters not be questioned by the Nazis or the Vichy French who controlled Casablanca? DeGaulle was their enemy. Anyone in Casablanca trying to use letters of transit signed by De Gaulle would be arrested and then would probably commit suicide or die while trying to escape. (Frederic Townsend, Lake Bluff, Ill.)

A. This is a real mystery. In the published version of the screenplay, the line reads: "...General DeGaulle [Marshal Weygand]." The Internet Movie Database says, "It sounds like Ugarte says that the letters of transit are signed by 'General De Gaulle.' leading to confusion as DeGaulle had no authority in that area at the time. Peter Lorre actually says 'General Weygand,' but his accent makes it difficult to understand." Since "DeGaulle" and "Weygand" do not sound much alike in any accent, I checked out my laserdisc of the scene. What Lorre says sounds like a cross between "jenna-rye dee-go" and "jenna-rye wee-gond." So, which is it? Probably Weygand. But why does the published screenplay give both possibilities?

Q. "Die Hard With a Vengeance" recently came out on video, and after watching it I re-read your review and the Answer Man discussion about how they solved the water jug problem (starting with a three gallon jug and a five gallon jug, they had to obtain exactly four gallons of water to disarm the bomb). Your readers sent in many different solutions to the problem. But no one watching the movie seems to have questioned this moment of dialog: "McClane, that truck you're driving contains 13 billion dollars worth of gold!" I did a little math. At $350 an ounce, that comes to a weight of slightly over 2,200,000 pounds. That's a heck of a truck. Do you think it would run into problems at the state highway patrol weighing station? (Don Howard, San Jose, Ca.)

A. Details.

Q. I can't say I've sampled ALL the movie info hotlines in the Los Angeles area. Nevertheless, I can say that not once, not ever, never, have I called a movie theater and been given the option of touch tone info such as "Press 1 for 'Twister.' press 2 for 'Mission:Impossible'." etc. I always end up having to wait through long sermons of showtimes for movies which I don't want to see. In an era of digital surround sound, computer-animated acting, and lowfat buttered popcorn, where's the menu-driven movie info? (Jim Simon, Villa Park, CA)

A. This is an idea whose time has come. I also question why the tape-recorded announcements have to tell you who stars in the movie and add a sales pitch, since by the time you call the theater you have obviously decided which movie you want to see. My theory? The theater manages who record the hotlines are frustrated voice-over announcers.

Q. I've worked in the medical field for 15 years but have always loved movies--especially the preview trailers. When I go to a show, if I miss any of the previews I feel like I missed what I came for. I would love to have a part in the production of movie trailers. Any suggestions? (Kimberly Stickels, Buffalo Grove, IL)

A. Trailers are made by specialists--editors and advertising people--who emphasize the aspects of a film are most likely to attract audiences. The music is usually from an earlier film: (1) because the new film will not have been scored when the trailer is being made, and (2) as a subtle way of identifying the new film with an established hit. Sometimes there is a voice-over announcer. Some trailers (especially Disney's) encapsulate almost the whole plot. Any trailer is more likely to reflect the movie the studio wanted than the movie it got. The trailers and ads for "The Cable Guy," for example, make it look more like an Ace Ventura farce than the black comedy it really is. To get into the trailer industry, you could take film and video editing courses and advertising courses, and then point yourself in that direction.

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