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Movie Spotlight

April 26, 1998|Kevin Thomas

By coincidence this turns out to be Lili Taylor Week. Petite, with angular features, Taylor is the most distinctive, most powerful actress to emerge from the independent American cinema in the past decade. Three of her best air this week.

Airing early Monday at 5:30 a.m. Cinemax is Tim McKay's remarkable 1996 Girls Town, which begins with a shocking incident that reverberates throughout the film as three fast friends (Taylor, Anna Grace and Bruklin Harris), are heading toward the conclusion of their senior year in high school. "Girls Town" is a serious film, ever demanding in the complexity of its people and their relationships, yet it gets a steady stream of laughs.

The distinctive and captivating 1993 Household Saints (Bravo Friday at 5 and 10:05 p.m.; Saturday at 11:45 a.m.) moves gracefully from knock-about high spirits to a kind of austere sublimity. The shifts in tone correspond to its portrayal of three generations of Italian-American women in New York's Little Italy following World War II, each indomitable in her own way. Carmela (Judith Malina) is the deeply superstitious mother of the neighborhood butcher (Vincent D'Onofrio) who wins his 17-year-old wife, Catherine (Tracey Ullman), in a pinochle game. Catherine has a daughter, Teresa (Taylor), who turns out to be as fanatic in her way as Carmela. Nancy Savoca's film is genuinely unsettling in trying to perplex audiences in new ways.

On the afternoon of June 3, 1968, feminist Valerie Solanas shot the king of Pop art, Andy Warhol, seriously wounding him and, in effect, marking an end to an era in his life and art. Many contend that Warhol, who died in 1987 after minor surgery, never fully recovered physically or artistically from Solanas' attack. Whereas many know a great deal about Warhol, few are familiar with Solanas, who was one of countless Warhol Factory hangers-on and had written an anti-male diatribe she called her S.C.U.M. (Society for Cutting Up Men) Manifesto. Mary Harron's ambitious and absorbing 1996 I Shot Andy Warhol (KCET Saturday at 9:15 p.m.), with Taylor in a portrayal of Solanas as luminous as it is gritty and fearless, brings alive Solanas in all her scabrous humor and pain and rage as she descends into madness. It also does the same for the world of Warhol and his fabled silver-painted Factory, where he made his minimalist films and the silk-screen portraits that celebrated the power of commercial art and photography. The soft-spoken, often maddeningly monosyllabic Warhol (Jared Harris) had become a magnet for socialites, beautiful people, dropouts and misfits along with the genuinely creative.

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