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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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Roger's Favorites: Jill Sprecher

Each day during this special week we will be highlighting the filmmakers and actors that Roger championed throughout his career. A table of contents for all of our "Roger's Favorites" posts can be found here. Below is an entry on three films by co-writer/director Jill Sprecher


Jill Sprecher is an American co-writer/director of only three films, two of which highly impressed Roger, at one point making her one of his most anticipated filmmakers. Her second film, "13 Conversations About One Thing" was an Ebertfest selection for 2003. Her most recent film project was 2012's "Thin Ice." 

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On May 22, 1998, Roger gave 3 1/2 stars to Sprecher's debut "Clockwatchers," a dark office comedy about the "hell on earth occupied by temporary office workers." Amused by the "mercilessly funny" script Sprecher wrote with her frequent collaborator and sister Karen, Roger was struck by an even deeper quality about the film, stating, "This is the rare movie about how people actually live." Taking the existential interest further, he added towards the bottom of his review, "Most new movies about old movies, this one is about the way we live now." 

Four years later, Sprecher's followup "13 Conversations About One Thing" received four stars from Roger, and was the inspiration for one of his most introspective film reviews, published on June 14, 2002. The review reads like the cosmic connection between two people who share the same life philosophies, strangers connected by art not unlike the characters of Sprecher's film; in particular, Roger aligns the film's ideas with his own reflections regarding a time he slipped on wet wax and broke bones in his left shoulder. 

He called the "brilliant" film "philosophy, illustrated through everyday events," and adored the way in which Sprecher's film is "relentless in the way it demonstrates how little we control our lives." Further energized by their filmmaking, Roger noted, "There aren't many filmmakers whose next film I anticipate more eagerly ... they're onto something." 

The excitement that Roger had for a followup was not exactly met with "Thin Ice," which he gave three stars to on February 22, 2012. Though he called the screenplay "devilishly ingenious," he summed up the experience with the slightly shrugging statement of, "'Thin Ice kept me interested and I was entertained." However, in a rare display of his support for filmmakers he cherished, Roger made a post-publishing footnote regarding a message he received from Jill Sprecher, who said that doesn't even claim as her own: "Nearly 20 minutes were cut; the structure rearranged; out-takes used; voiceover and characters dropped ...  Although our names contractually remain on the film, my sister and I do not consider 'Thin Ice' to be our work." 

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