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KNIGHT AT THE MOVIES Lake of Fire
by Richard Knight, Jr.
2007-10-31

This article shared 2890 times since Wed Oct 31, 2007
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Director Tony Kaye—infamous for the creative battles over his first feature, 1998's American History X—is not one to shy away from controversy and with Lake of Fire, his self-financed, 2½-hour documentary on the ongoing battle over abortion rights in this country, he reaffirms this. The movie is tough, extremely graphic and never boring. Though it seems biased toward the religious zealots, that's clearly because the much more dramatic pro-lifers are better camera subjects than their cool-headed counterparts and Kaye, who doesn't comment or offer narration throughout the sprawling film, doesn't offer a viewpoint. Indeed, supporters on both sides of the issue will find moments here to shake their beliefs. This tremendous but disturbing film is in the midst of an exclusive run at the Gene Siskel Film Center.

'Lake of fire' refers to that place in hell where the religious fundamentalists profiled in the movie insist will be the eventual home for those involved in the abortion 'trade' who does not hew to their narrow belief system. Kaye spent over 16 years working on his film and, during that time period, caught plenty of amazing and ironic footage. In one horrifying moment, Paul Hill is shown decrying the guilty verdict after a fellow pro life fanatic is convicted for murdering a doctor who performed abortions. When a cameraman asks him, 'So can we expect to see you on trial for murder soon?' Hill merely cracks a half smile and, indeed, a year and a half later Hill was tried ( and later executed ) for doing just that.

It is only possible to view the film's graphic sections because of Kaye's decision to shoot in black and white, which offers a distance that color would not afford. However, they're still pretty tough to watch. The toughest to watch is an emotionally wrenching sequence that ends the film in which Kaye follows a young woman through her entire visit to a clinic to have an abortion. The young woman's unblemished reaction throughout and later as she wipes away the tears with an apologetic, 'It's just been a very long day' speaks volumes about the difficulties inherent in such a decision and puts a face on this highly personal issue. www.siskelfilmcenter.com

Film Notes:

—Ridley Scott's 1982 sci-fi masterpiece is remade as Blade Runner: The Final Cut returns to theaters in an extended director's cut 25 years after its debut. The film, set in the toxic wasteland of Los Angeles of 2019, looked like nothing else when it debuted in 1982. The film, which stars Harrison Ford as a hired gun ( called a blade runner ) tracking down killer robots ( known as replicants ) , was a flop with the public and had a mixed critical reception in its initial release but Scott's visionary movie has influenced scores of films since. Though a multi-set DVD release is forthcoming, this is a rare chance to see this visual masterpiece in all its glory on the large screen. Opens exclusively at the Music Box Theatre on Nov. 2. www.musicboxtheatre.com

—Two DVDs of note are out: This Filthy World, from Dokument Films, captures queer writer-director John Waters' hilarious one-man show. Dear Jesse, from Sovereign films, is a thoughtful and sobering 1998 first-person documentary that found gay director Tim Kirkman returning to his home state of North Carolina to discern the reason for the state's long-term support of its ultraconservative senator, Jesse Helms, who was then running for office one last time. In an incredible coincidence, Kirkman's film includes a brief interview with Matthew Shepard two years before his unfortunate death. My interviews with both Waters and Kirkman are coming soon to Windy City Times.

Check out my archived reviews at www.windycitytimes.com or www.knightatthemovies.com . Readers can leave feedback at the latter website where there is also ordering information on my new book of collected film reviews, Knight at the Movies 2004-2006.


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