Moritsugu makes a little mischief Movies: The Orpheum will show two films by the subversive Jon Moritsugu next week


October 09, 1998|By Ann Hornaday | Ann Hornaday,SUN FILM CRITIC

Jon Moritsugu, a filmmaker who lives and works in San Francisco, is the latest in a long line of "begats" that began with the alternative cinema of George and Mike Kuchar, came into popular flowering with John Waters, flows through the work of Bruce La Bruce and Gregg Araki and flourishes anew every time an artist tries to frighten his parents.

MicroCineFest, Baltimore's own festival of subversive, bent and "psychotronic" films, will bring two Moritsugu movies to the Orpheum in Fells Point for a weeklong run Monday. "Terminal USA" (1993), about a seemingly perfect Japanese-American family, and "Mod F- - - Explosion" (1994), about a teen-age girl abroad in a world of incest, gang warfare and general dysfunction, will mark a rare screening of the director's work in Baltimore.

Be warned: This isn't PG material. Moritsugu lards his ironic ditties with a plethora of raunchy sex, bloody violence and nearly every kind of drug, while he toys with movies at their most mainstream. "Terminal USA," for example, calls on Westerns, science-fiction fantasies, domestic melodramas and film-noir crime thrillers even while it confronts the audience with images of people shooting up, gay pornography, masturbation and the imbibing of unspeakable body fluids (let's just say Andres Serrano would approve).

Moritsugu will inevitably be compared to Araki, whose own "Doom Generation" possesses the same punk-camp sensibility. Like Araki, Moritsugu has a superb sense of casting. The acting in both films recalls the conviction and brio of Waters' own repertory company -- in Amy Davis, his leading lady and muse, he has found a wonderfully protean downtown diva.

But unlike Araki, Moritsugu imbues his work, however dimly, with a sense of politics, whether he is addressing cultural stereotypes of Japanese-Americans (the "perfect" family of "Terminal USA," the yellow menace of " Explosion") or the nexus between punk and fascism. The final image of a burning cross on a Japanese family's yard in "Terminal USA" makes it clear that there is at least a tiny bit of method sprinkled throughout Moritsugu's madness.

Still, let's be clear: These movies aren't for grown-ups. They are designed to appeal to teens at their most in-your-face, continuing a long and semi-proud tradition of movies made expressly in order to flout square ideas like common decency and good sense. It's juvenilia, but at least Moritsugu chooses to make mischief with nothing more incendiary than celluloid.

What to see

Loews Cineplex Theatres begin a free children's film series today with screenings of "Dr. Do- little" (PG-13) at the Rotunda. Admission to the series is free for kids 12 and under, and $1 for their adult companions. "Dr. Dolittle" will play through Thursday. Check the Movie Directory for show times.

The Enoch Pratt Free Library series "From Rosie to Roosevelt" will feature a screening of "To Be or Not to Be" Saturday at 2 p.m. in the library's Wheeler Auditorium. ("Tender Comrade," which was originally scheduled, is unavailable.) The Ernst Lubitsch comedy, about a troupe of actors performing Hamlet who become embroiled in a Nazi spy plot, stars Jack Benny and Carole Lombard (who died in a plane crash just before the movie was released in 1942). Sunday's video discussion will pivot around "The Life and Times of Rosie the Riveter," an absorbing documentary about women's contribution to the work force during World War II. "From Rosie to Roosevelt" will continue through Nov. 15.

Cinema Sundays

"A Merry War," the filmed adaptation of George Orwell's satirical novel "Keep the Aspidistra Flying," will be the featured film at this weekend's Cinema Sundays program at the Charles Theatre.

Set in 1930s London, the movie stars Richard E. Grant as an idealistic ad copy writer and Helena Bonham Carter as the artist who loves him. Film programmer and writer Eddie Cockrell will lead the post-screening discussion.

Membership for the eight remaining programs of Cinema Sundays is $120 ($100 for renewing members). Mini-memberships for five programs may be purchased for $85 ($75 for re-uppers). If seating allows, single tickets will be sold at the door for $15. Doors open at 9: 45 a.m. The screening begins at around 10: 30 a.m., after a brunch of bagels and coffee. For more information, call 410-727- 3464.

Good 'Evil'

Charles Theatre co-owner John Standiford says that "Touch of Evil" did so well this week that he's decided to hang on to it for two more weeks.

The restored version of Orson Welles' 1958 film -- which has been re-edited according to a memo he wrote objecting to the studio-edited version that was eventually released -- will play until Oct. 23, when it makes way for Federico Fellini's beloved "Nights of Cabiria."

Pub Date: 10/09/98

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