The Moderns | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Alan Rudolph's 12th film, set in Paris in 1926 among American expatriates, isn't everything that one hopes it to be; Rudolph has been wanting to film his and the late Jon Bradshaw's script since the mid- 70s, and it has probably been stewing in his consciousness for too long. But for the first hour, at least, it is very nearly as good as Choose Me and Remember My Name, and even when it isn't working, it remains fascinating. Set in a claustrophobic world of cafes, studios, and other cluttered interiors, with a great many smoky close-ups and drifting camera movements, the film is about the public profile of modernism more than its inner workings--the kind of process that codified and calcified, say, Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein (who are among the film's characters) into media images before Hollywood took over. Rudolph treats all his characters like contemporaries of the 80s rather than historical figures, and as usual in his work the cover stories of the characters count for more than anything else, even if they keep slipping away. The cast is by and large superb: Keith Carradine, Geraldine Chaplin, Linda Fiorentino, Genevieve Bujold, Kevin J. O'Connor (as Hemingway), and John Lone; even Wallace Shawn expands his range a little. As a statement about "the moderns," this is not without it's problems, but as a stylistic exercise, it manages to remain pretty mesmerizing, and the clever plot shows Rudolph to some of his fancier tricks. The very pleasant music, always a strong point in Rudolph's movies, is by Mark Isham. (Fine Arts)

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