• U.S.

Short Takes: May 11, 1992

4 minute read


Made in Her Own Image

SASSY, SEXY AND BELTING OUT DISCO anthems like I’m Every Woman, CHAKA KHAN seemed to embody the feel-good exuberance of the early 1970s. Her recording career has had its up and downs since then, but Khan seems set to zoom back up to those old heights with her latest release, The Woman I Am. The title reflects a new self-determination that goes beyond mere semantics. Taking charge for the first time in her 20-year career, Khan produced the album herself and co-wrote six of its 13 songs, including the title track. Her fiery contralto is in total command on all of them, swooping effortlessly from a raunchy growl to a soulful wail. The result is frisky, hip-shaking music. So go ahead, party hearty.


Mental Cruelty

WILL THIS MADNESS NEVER END? ANOTHer ratings “sweeps,” another torrent of tawdry TV movies about women being brutalized — physically, mentally, sexually. For sheer masochistic excess, this month’s champ is CBS’S IN MY DAUGHTER’S NAME. Donna Mills plays a woman whose daughter is raped and murdered. The sleazebag is acquitted on an insanity defense so ludicrous that the mental institution where he is sent lets him go. This is too much for Mom to bear, so she tracks down the guy and shoots him — then has to stand trial herself. It’s overwrought and unbelievable, but watchable because of Mills, who agonizes beautifully, down to her last unkempt strand of hair.


America’s God

CHUNKS OF THE OLD TESTAMENT WERE written by — a woman! So went the sales- boosting claim of Harold Bloom in 1990’s The Book of J. Bloom booms again in the preposterous, opinionated, thoroughly entertaining THE AMERICAN RELIGION (Simon & Schuster; $22). The eminent Yale critic, who sees religion as “spilled poetry,” turns tastemaker on U.S.-made faiths, especially Southern Baptism, where he stumbles badly, and Mormonism, which he lauds for odd originality. Pentecostalism? “Daring.” New Age? Can’t read the stuff. A portentous subtitle transmits Bloom’s wish: “The Emergence of the Post- Christian Nation.” Oh, yes. Bloom thinks America’s hidden creed is Gnosticism, and, for the American, god is none other than himself.


Showtime For Hitler

CHORUS GIRLS TWIRL AROUND IN HEADdresses a la Busby Berkeley. Gymnasts flex, and one inverts himself into a handstand minutes long. A busty blond croons a pop tune. Then Nazi soldiers march in. No, it’s not Broadway’s Cabaret, but an even more genuine article, staged by Berlin’s Theater des Westens to depict how Hitler’s regime fused popular culture and propaganda. BERLIN CABARET, at Washington’s Kennedy Center through this week, is gloriously mounted if scantily plotted. Its showy numbers evoke radio, pop music and the 1936 Olympics but focus on the movies, especially as seen by a Jewish actor turned exile and a matronly costume aide who deplores patriotic bunkum yet finds celluloid dreams irresistible.


Blind Trust

“WHY WOULD I LIE TO YOU?” THE MOTHer asks. “Because you can,” her blind son replies. Martin (Hugo Weaving), hero of Jocelyn Moorhouse’s PROOF, takes pictures to document a world he cannot see or trust. Should he trust Celia (Genevieve Picot), who desires him even more than she hates him? Or amiable Andy (Russell Crowe), shopping for a friend? Emotional frost is the one power Martin holds over those who would come close enough to wound or even touch him. This Australian drama has faults: a short story’s facile symmetry and (ugh!) a wacky car chase. But it gets at the mysteries of isolation and obsession. Like another, better movie about a photographer, a park and betrayal, Proof is a testament to what pictures cannot reveal. This is Blowup, wallet-size.

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com