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The Climb

Thrilling and charming in a way that very few American comedies ever are.

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Ballad of Narayama

"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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Movie Answer Man (05/12/1996)

Q. I rented the video of "Persuasion" because the box featured a beautiful babe in one of those Empire waistline gowns--you know, the 18th century Wonderbra look, with her espieglerie at full thrust--and she's leaning in true bodice-buster style on a dashing young man with naval epaulettes. So I rent the flick thinking this is gonna be some hot evening. Imagine my surprise when the babe isn't in the movie but it's this frumpy babe instead. And as for the guy, it looks like somebody carved his face from an oak stump with a dull chainsaw. I thought the Jane Austen babe who wrote this was supposed to be really hot right now, which means lotsa sex, right? So what gives? (Rich Elias, Delaware, Ohio)


A. As Ohio's most distinguished film critic, you know perfectly well that video companies will put anything on a box if they think it will rent the video. Consider "Picture Bride," a heartfelt story of a turn of the century romance between a Japanese "mail orer bride" and a Hawaiian farm worker. The cover shows a naked couple under a waterfall. This is sort of based on a scene in the movie--except, on the cover, they're Caucasian.

Q. You recently wrote, "...movies get pretty much the audience they deserve. People tend to be quiet for good movies, and noisy during bad ones." Recently we went to see "Fargo" (a great movie) at the Sony in Rolling Meadows, and had to move seats because the ladies behind us were discussing their eyeglass purchases during the fist 20 minutes. We had been anxiously awaiting "Richard III" (another great movie), and settled into our seats at the York Art Theater in Elmhurst--but the talking audience affliction had struck there, too! Not only were the three people behind us treating us to a continuous description of what Shakespare meant, ad nauseum, but three people across the aisle wetre chatting, too. We don't know where you go to the movies, but please let us know these locations. (Charlene Chapman and Henry Sadowski, Itasca, Ill.)

A. I'm not always so lucky. I once got so mad at four guys talking during a movie at the Webster Place that I told them I was going to ask the manager to call the police. They got a good laugh out of that. They were the police.

Q. As you know, Alexander Jodorowsky's 1971 classic "El Topo" has long been unavailable on video in the U.S, except in imported Japanese videos. In my search for a copy, I was informed that about two weeks ago all American resellers of the Japanese release of the film were recently served with legal papers from Jodorowsky's lawyers. These papers reassert Jodorowsky's right as owner to control the distribution of "El Topo." (Eric Geilker, Charlottesville, Va.)

A. Until recently, rights to the film were controlled by Allen Klein, who for reasons of his own did not wish to release it in the U.S. When I interviewed Jodorowsky at the 1989 Cannes Film Festival (where his "Santa Sangre" played), he said Klein would not talk to him or release the film. If Jodorowsky indeed has control of it again, that means a new generation of moviegoers can see one of the most remarkable films ever made.

Q. On your recommendation we went to see "Wings of Courage," the 3-D IMAX movie. You were right! The 3-D effect was sensational--far better than we had ever seen before. The glasses are more like science fiction headsets, and we were wondering how they work? Are they responsible for the realistic effect? (Harris Allsworth, Chicago).


A. The IMAX 3-D headsets are a vast improvement on the old red and green cardboard glasses we used to wear at 3-D movies, according to Seymour Uranowitz of the CompuServe ShowBiz Forum. He tells me: "There are infrared transmitters in the front of the theater that send a signal to sensors in the headsets. The signals are synchronized with the frames of film so that for some frames, the left LCD lens in the headset is blacked out, and for other frames the right LCD frame is blacked out. This system produces a superior 3D effect because the left/right blocking is more complete for each eye, and the glass is a higher quality medium through which to see the film, compared to plastic."

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