Horse Thief

Zhang Rui With his astonishing Horse Thief, thirty-three-year-old Tian Zhuangzhuang represents the aesthetic vanguard of the new Chinese cinema. The child of two prominent movie actors, Tian (like his fellow inno- vator Chen Kaige) was sent into the countryside during the Cultural Revolution, joined the army to escape the work brigade, and entered the Beijing Film Academy when it finally reopened in 1978. Like other fifth generation directors, Tian made his first...

Vengeance Is Mine

Alan Poul, the programmer who has helped build the Japan House into a model showcase for a national cinema, has been claiming for years that Shohei Imamura is the major filmmaker presently active in Japan. Vengeance Is Mine goes a long way toward proving that point. This 1979 film is a dramatic study in criminal psychology that I can only call awesome. Vengeance Is Mine is an eclectically horrifying mosaic about a psychopathic criminal named Iwao Enokizu. The film's story is based on police...

History of Violence

Josh Olson A History of Violence, with its Hitchcockian wrong man theme and continual implication of the viewer, is as coolly distanced as its title would suggest. In the film's first minute, a scarily hard-bitten killer walks on camera and perfects the flat perspective by straightening a chair. A work for hire, as well as David Cronenberg's biggest budget ever, freely adapted by Josh Olson from John Wagner and Vince Locke's graphic novel, A History of Violence...

Space Odyssey

Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke 141 min. 2001 A Space Odyssey is a thoroughly uninteresting failure and the most damning demonstration yet of Stanley Kubrick's inability to tell a story coherently and with a consistent point of view. His film is not a film at all, but merely a pretext for a pictorial spread in Life magazine. Kubrick, like Lelouch, is an undeniably competent photographer, but photographers seldom make the best directors. 2001 has little writing or...

Ali Fear Eats the Soul

Rainer Werner Fassbinder's work has always been characterized by a dichotomy between the plot conventions of melodrama and an extremely stylized mise-en-scene. His claustrophobic camera style forces his actors to move in space as if part of a series of still lifes. If The Merchant of Four Seasons leans more toward stylization, Ali Fear Eats the Soul relies more on melodrama as a means of attacking German bourgeois values. A black Moroccan Gastarbeiter, Ali, meets an elderly German cleaning...

Andrei Rublev

Andrei Konchalovsky and Andrei Tarkovsky 205 min. When Andrei Rublev first materialized on the international scene in the late 1960s, it was an apparent anomaly a pre-Soviet theater of cruelty charged with resurgent Slavic mysticism. Today, Andrei Tarkovsky's second feature seems to prophesy the impending storm. Its greatness as moviemaking immediately evident, Andrei Rublev was also the most historically audacious Soviet production since Eisenstein's Ivan the...

Barry Lyndon

Barry Lyndon is the loveliest of Stanley Kubrick's films. Indeed, it's the one Kubrick movie that could even invite that adjective (or epithet). Adapted from William Thackeray's obscure first novel, Barry Lyndon is the saddest of swashbucklers and the most melancholy of bodice- rippers. Kubrick visualizes the late eighteenth century as a death-haunted realm of perpetual summer. The verdant landscapes recall Constable and Watteau, but the idyll is haunted by inane military pageants the...

Beau Travail

Claire Denis and Jean-Pol Fargeau Claire Denis is a sensational filmmaker with all that implies. Her Beau Travail is a movie so tactile in its cinematography, inventive in its camera placement, and sensuous in its editing that the purposefully oblique and languid narrative is all but eclipsed. I've found an idea for a novel, a Godard character once announced. Not to write the life of a man, but only life, life itself. What there is between people, space . . . sound and...

Belle de Jour

Luis Bunuel and Jean-Claude Carri re The beauty of Belle de Jour is the beauty of artistic vigor and intelligence. Given what Luis Bunuel is at sixty-seven and what he has done in forty years and twenty-seven projects and what and whom he had to work with and for, Belle de Jour reverberates with the cruel logic of formal necessity. From the opening shot of an open carriage approaching the camera at an oblique ground-level angle to the closing shot of an open carriage...

Caf Lumire

Hou Hsiao-hsien and Chu T'ien-wen Dedicated to Yasujiro Ozu (and commissioned by Ozu's old studio, Shochiku, on the occasion of the Japanese master's centenary), Caf Lumi re is, in some ways, Hou Hsiao-hsien's melancholy rumination on the traditional Japanese family that was already in decline a halfcentury ago, when Ozu made his most celebrated domestic dramas. Hou's movie is introduced with the classic Shochiku logo and begins with a low-angle shot of a streetcar...

Citizen Kane

Mankiewicz and Orson Welles Pauline Kael's two-part article on Citizen Kane (Raising Kane, The New Yorker, February 20 and 27, 1970) reportedly began as a brief introduction to the published screenplay, but, like Topsy, it just growed and growed into a fifty-thousand-word digression from Kane itself into the life and times and loves and hates and love-hates of Pauline Kael. My disagreement with her position begins with her very first sentence Citizen Kane is...

Cline and Julie Go Boating

Juliet Berto, Eduardo de Gregorio, and Jacques Jacques Rivette's C line and Julie Go Boating seems the quintessential French movie of the last fifteen years. Here, the narrative experiments of Alain Resnais and Marguerite Duras are infused with the movie-crazed energy of early New Wave films like Shoot the Piano Player or Zazie to arrive at an original and entertaining metaphor for film watching and, perhaps, film history. Rivette was the first of the Cahiers du Cin ma...

Dead Ringers

David Cronenberg and Norman Snider Adapted from a novel itself based on a true story, Dead Ringers employs a speculum to turn the mad doctor genre inside out. David Cronenberg fans may be disappointed by the almost total absence of the director's trademark visceralia the shocks here are purely of recognition they provoke laughter rather than screams. Mordantly witty, the film is all the more disturbing for its chilly distance and seeming objectivity. The story of the...

Distant Voices Still Lives

For some, a few years of childhood create a mystery they spend most of the rest of their years trying to solve. The British filmmaker Terence Davies appears to be one of these. In his wrenching Distant Voices, Still Lives, Davies invents a cinematic means of time travel and in the service of mourning a language to talk with the dead. Born in 1945 into a Liverpool working-class family, Davies is the youngest of ten children (seven of whom survived) in the film, which takes place during the hard...

Do the Right Thing

The effect of motion pictures on human behavior is a question that's been debated for nearly a century, but Do the Right Thing is being treated in some quarters as a blueprint for catastrophe. The experience of this movie is complicated and perhaps chastening, but is also skillfully organized and not exactly unpleasurable. Do the Right Thing is bright and brazen, and it moves with a distinctive jangling glide. Set on a single block in the heart of Brooklyn on the hottest Saturday of the summer,...

Donnie Darko

Donnie Darko, the first feature by twenty-six-year-old writer-director Richard Kelly, is a wondrous, moodily self-involved piece of work that employs X-Files magic realism to galvanize what might have been a routine tale of suburban teen angst okay, borderline schizophrenia. Part comic book, part case study, this is certainly the most original and venturesome American indie I've seen this year. Kelly begins fiddling with normality from the opening scene, the evening of the 1988 presidential...

Flaming Creatures

Jack Smith's Flaming Creatures (1963) has publicly surfaced again after seven and a half years in legal limbo. Despite its suppression and despite the fact that Smith has remained underground, his aesthetic progeny are everywhere apparent most recently, the Cockettes of San Francisco and Jackie Curtis's Vain Victory, more generally in the work of Warhol, Morrissey and the Factory Superstars, the Playhouse of the Ridiculous (and its progeny), Ronald Tavel (who in a recent Voice interview...

Glen or Glenda

They've tacked on an extra n and dropped the lurid question mark, but I couldn't be more pleasantly stunned to see the title Glenn or Glenda defacing the marquee of a first-run theater if Edward D. Wood Jr., the auteur of this 1953 Bela Lugosi vehicle (aka I Changed My Sex, aka I Led Two Lives, aka Transvestite), were to posthumously receive next year's American Film Institute Life Achievement award. Wood (1922-1978), whose last recorded opus was an 8mm home study segment of The Encyclopedia of...

Guide

50 Years of Movies from Classics to Cult Hits This book is printed on acid-free paper. Copyright 2007 by Village Voice Media, Inc. All rights reserved Published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, New Jersey Published simultaneously in Canada Design and composition by Navta Associates, Inc. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, scanning, or otherwise, except as...

Y Huckabees

Russell and Jeff Baena In a career that otherwise defies classification, the writer-director David O. Russell has found humor where others fear to tread or never think to look. Spanking the Monkey (1994) is a comedy about mother-son incest Flirting with Disaster (1996), a comedy about adoption and adultery Three Kings (1999), a comedy about the moral confusion of war. A euphoric bungee jump into the abyss of the Big Everything, I y Huckabees is by far his...

Im Going Home

Manoel de Oliveira's I'm Going Home is a highly literary or, at least, a highly intertextual work, as well as an uncharacteristic one. It shows the ninety-three-year-old Portuguese master in a surprisingly humanist mode. Indeed, the story of an aging actor's bereavement may be as close as Oliveira has come to making a commercial movie. A rueful hurdy-gurdy provides the recurring theme. I'm Going Home opens with Gilbert Valence (Michel Piccoli) onstage, more whining about than raging against the...

Kiss Me Deadly

Bezzerides Genres collide in the great Hollywood movies of the mid-1950s thaw. The Western goes South with The Searchers the cartoon merges with the musical in The Girl Can't Help It. Science fiction becomes pop sociology in Invasion of the Body Snatchers noir veers into apocalyptic sci-fi with Robert Aldrich's 1955 Kiss Me Deadly. Kiss Me Deadly tracks the sleaziest private investigator in American movies through a nocturnal labyrinth to a white-hot vision of...

Landscape in the Mist

Theo Angelopoulos, Tonino Guerra, and At fifty-two, Theo Angelopoulos is a cinematic master who is virtually unknown here. A manic culture doesn't sit still to meditate and dream, and so, to our detriment, we're now supporting one kind of cinema only. During the 1980s, Angelopoulos made three related films Voyage to Cythera (1983), The Beekeeper (1986), and Landscape in the Mist a series often compared to Wim Wenders's road trilogy. But Wenders's heroes are youngish...

LArgent

Robert Bresson's L'Argent justifies all by itself the twenty-one-year existence of the New York Film Festival. It is not a particularly easy film for a general audience in this, it is quintessentially Bressonian. Most hard-core Bressonians profess to prefer it to The Devil, Probably (1977). I see the two as very closely related. After one viewing, I am struck most strongly by its more despairing tone. The somewhat ironic hypothesis of the devil in The Devil, Probably has been developed in...

LAtalante

Jean Guin e, Jean Vigo, and Albert Ri ra L'Atalante may be the greatest film ever made. Mutilated by its backers before its disastrous 1934 opening as Le Chaland Qui Pass , Jean Vigo's masterpiece (or, if you prefer, his other masterpiece) has never been shown in its intended form purists are complaining that this restoration based on a long-lost print isn't definitive either. The movie's simple story fledgling marriage tested by life on a river barge wasn't Vigo's own....

Late Chrysanthemums

Sumie Tanaka and Toshiro Ide The simultaneous opening of films by Mikio Naruse at the Film Forum and the Public Theater is another step forward in the acceptance of this brilliant, downbeat director, a contemporary and peer of Yasujiro Ozu and Kenji Mizoguchi. Although neither is a masterpiece, both Late Chrysanthemums (1954) and Flowing (1956) offer good introductions to the director, who once recalled, From the youngest age I have thought that the world we live in...

McCabe Mrs Miller

Robert Altman and Brian McKay I happen to admire Robert Altman's McCabe & Mrs. Miller, even though many people whose opinions I respect don't like the movie and many people whose opinions I suspect do. Furthermore, the main antiargument (pretentiousness) strikes a more responsive chord in my critical temperament than does the main pro-argument (realism). McCabe & Mrs. Miller is photographed through a test-pattern haze of pea soup, and much of the dialogue is thrown...

Meshes of the Afternoon

Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid Scr. Maya Deren A pioneer working in a virtual vacuum, Maya Deren invented the two genres psychodrama and dance-film that most characterize American personal cinema from World War II through the late 1950s. So many of Deren's devices have grown shopworn in other hands that it takes an active imagination to recognize just how innovative her work really was. Of the six films Deren completed, her three psychodramas are the most substantial. Meshes of the...

Mulholland Drive

Mulholland Drive parts the veil on a totally cracked, utterly convincing world with David Lynch its brooding demiurge. A Denny's-like restaurant on Sunset Boulevard fronts the abyss. I had a dream about this place, a smug young creative type explains to someone who might be his agent, even as his nightmare begins to unfold. Crazy Fashioned from the ruins of a two-hour TV pilot rejected by ABC in 1999, Lynch's erotic thriller careens from one violent non sequitur to another. The movie boldly...

Night and Fog in Japan i

Toshiro Ishido and Nagisa Oshima Night and Fog in Japan, made by Nagisa Oshima in 1960, is the least compromising commercial film one can imagine. As formally radical as it is politically uncool, for its twenty-eight-year-old director the film was a virtual act of self-destruction. With sublime aesthetic opportunism, Oshima exploited the success of his early youth films, a crisis of confidence within the Japanese film industry, and the most intense period of political...

Night of the Living Dead

Russo and George A. Romero Night of the Living Dead (directed by George A. Romero and seen occasionally on 42nd Street) is crude, derivative, and one of the best horror films ever produced. Made for 125,000 in the environs of Pittsburgh by a local company and exploiting what must be members of an amateur thesping society, it involves the audience in such straightforward and simple acts of cruelty that one wonders why no clear-eyed horror filmmaker was able to...

Once Upon a Time in the West

Sergio Leone and Sergio Donati Once Upon a Time in the West begins with a gunfight at a train station shot as a low-angle panorama of Western wasteland psychology and ends after another shootout near a railroad in construction with a last shot of a high-angle panorama of Western expansionist history. With authenticated American actors like Henry Fonda, Jason Robards, Charles Bron-son, Jack Elam, and Woody Strode, Once Upon a Time in the West is Sergio Leone's most...

Peking Opera Blues

The power-pop triumph of the past few years, Peking Opera Blues lures you in with its pounding, crazy beat. The very first image is a close-up of an elaborately made-up Chinese opera performer staring down the camera and howling with laughter. His stylized gaiety is infectious it dares the viewer to remain aloof. This action comedy by Hong Kong director Tsui Hark is a breathlessly choreographed jape that's almost irresistible. Like much recent HK fare, Peking Opera Blues is a period piece that...

Pink Flamingos

There recently have been two glaring changes in the mood of movie-going that has prevailed for, say, the last ten years. The shift from the mood necrophiliac, wherein we sat in miserable silence staring at films mangled by bad programming, reminded gloomily of the continuing existence of the filmmaker as being somehow in the way between his films and the mausoleums and archives, and the shift in the press away from a certain kind of review that hopefully can no longer be written. The kind of...

Punishment Park

Peter Watkins's Punishment Park, his first American film, is a sciencefiction nightmare in the form of a documentary. In the near future, while the war in Indochina continues to expand, a rapid escalation of political repression in the United States results in massive arrests. Youths are offered amnesty from lengthy prison terms only if they succeed in crossing a fifty-mile stretch of desert on foot within three days, and the film cross-cuts relentlessly from one group suffering this ordeal to...

Rear Window

John Michael Hayes 112 min James Stewart has been in town basking in the deserved glory of Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window. I caught Stewart at a press conference conducted by Richard Roud at Avery Fisher Hall. Most of the ques tions were respectful the only even faintly discordant notes were struck when one interrogator raised the subject of Donald Spoto's alleged discovery of a dark side to Hitch, and another propounded the theory that Hitchcock's worst films had...

Reminiscences of a Journey to Lithuania

Jonas Mekas's Reminiscences of a Journey to Lithuania, a film dedicated to all the displaced people in the world, has itself become the object of some displacement. Screened jointly with Adolfas Mekas and Pola Chapelle's Going Home at the New York Film Festival, defined in the program as a non-narrative film and by its author as a home movie, it has become a casual victim of convenient programming and somewhat deceptive labels. Whatever non-narrative and home movie mean, they are less than...

Sansho the Bailiff

Fuji Yahiro and Yoshikata Yoda Based on a melodramatic novel by the popular nineteenth-century writer Mori Ogai, Kenji Mizoguchi's Sansho the Bailiff is actually set in the medieval Japan of one thousand years ago, a time and place much like any other, of awakening human consciousness and consequent social chaos. The class system is breaking down, rank holds sway by brute force rather than by moral authority, and the mute masses are restless. Set against the background...

Scenes from under Childhood

Again, there are rumors about putting movies on tape. Any movie. You transfer it from film to tape you put the tape into a special cassette you slip the cassette into a special replaying machine, and you watch it on your home screen or on your TV screen. The system has been tested, and it works. The price of an average movie on tape will be the price of an average book. There is a secret bustle in certain places of this town publishers, record houses, movie companies are trying to tie down...

Symbiopsychotaxiplasm Take

Symbiopsychotaxiplasm Take One may be the ultimate paradigm of self-reflexive cinema, eating Godard's tail for him and one-upping the classic anticartoon Duck Amuck by submitting to a cunning entropy and a self-inquiry so relentless the movie never moves from square one. Greaves plays Greaves playing a vague indie filmmaker shooting a film about marital rupture in Central Park. With three mutually interrogating cameras going at all times, the set and the surrounding passersby (including cops)...

That Obscure Object of Desire

Luis Bunuel and Jean-Claude Carri re Luis Bunuel began his movie career by coauthoring the most influential avant-garde movie ever made, the surrealist incitement to murder Un Chien Andalou, and capped his oeuvre with a masterpiece, That Obscure Object of Desire. Such was the consistency of Bunuel's world-view that much of the latter is anticipated by the former. Pierre Louys's 1898 novel The Woman and the Puppet, the story of teenage femme fatale Concha Perez and the...

The Age of Innocence

Jay Cocks and Martin Scorsese Well, Scorsese's The Age of Innocence finally meets its public. A woman friend calls the film a male weepie. A male who wept says it's Marty's Leopard, his most Italian film yet. A fan who's seen it twice, and is poised to return, views the film as a Rorschach and predicts vast disagreements over who's worth weeping for. If you don't know Edith Wharton's 1920 novel, the inward-leaning figures on screen reticent, opaque, suffering in such...

The Battle of Algiers

Gillo Pontecorvo and Franco Solinas Last week, the New York Film Festival opened its fifth season with The Battle of Algiers, that neorealistic film about the wretched of the earth, which has taken prizes at all the festivals where the nonwretched gather. From the beginning, it was obvious that a number of parallels could be drawn between the French position in Algeria and our own policies both abroad and at home, between the rebels in the Casbah and our own...

The Chelsea Girls

Ronald Tavel and Andy Warhol After seeing Andy Warhol's new film Chelsea Girls, I was walking along the street and talking to myself. There was no doubt in my mind that I had just seen a very important film. But if I am going to write anything about it, people will say I am crazy. What is Chelsea Girls It is Warhol's most ambitious work to date. It is also probably his most important work to date. It is an epic movie-novel. During the four hours that the movie lasts, a...

The Devil Probably

Like every feature Robert Bresson has directed, The Devil, Probably is a drama of faith so uncompromising as to border on the absurd. Chic yet austere, as flat and stylized as a medieval illumination, The Devil, Probably is a vision bracketed by the void. It's a movie that begins (and ends) in total darkness, presenting itself as an interlude during which abstract creatures flounce purposefully in and out of frame. As these Yves St. Laurent angels flit through Paris on predestined missions of...

The Heart of the World

The Heart of the World is the celluloid equivalent of concentrated juice. Guy Maddin packs nearly every human emotion (and then some) into five supercharged minutes. Commissioned by the Toronto Film Festival as one of ten short preludes to be screened before the main features, The Heart of the World was designed to withstand repeated viewings and it does. The Heart of the World, 2000 written and directed by Guy Maddin The Heart of the World, 2000 written and directed by Guy Maddin Maddin has...

The House Is Black

In 1962, beloved and controversial poetess Forugh Farrokhzad went to Azerbaijan and made this short film on the grounds of a leper colony, presaging in twenty-two minutes the entirety of the Iranian new wave and the international quasi-genre of poetic nonfiction. It's a blackjack of a movie, soberly documenting the village of lost ones with an astringently ethical eye, freely orchestrating scenes and simply capturing others, while on the soundtrack Farrokhzad reads her own poetry in a plaintive...

The King of Comedy

Zimmerman Martin Scorsese's The King of Comedy is not a comedy that will have you falling off your seat from the force of your belly laughs. Much of the time, you may not even feel like chuckling or smiling. You may instead be wincing from the pain of unpleasant recognition as you watch Robert De Niro's inspired, uncanny rendering of Rupert Pupkin, bridge-and-tunnel creep, autograph hound, and stand-up comedy stiff who nonetheless enfolds himself in his...

The Magnificent Ambersons

Orson Welles was not only a genius he played one on the screen. The most lavishly gifted Hollywood director of his generation, this all-around showboat both lived and dramatized the self-serving Promethean spectacle of the outsize artistic temperament laid low by the constraints of commerce. Having begun his career with a movie that continues to top critics' polls as the greatest ever made, Welles suffered a suitably outsize sophomore jinx. The Magnificent Ambersons, however different in tone...

The Man with a Movie Camera

When people, like the neophyte Houston film critic whose letter arrived yesterday, ask me my all-time favorite movie or the greatest movie ever made, I brace myself for a look of blank incomprehension and say, Dziga Vertov's The Man with a Movie Camera. Say what Released in 1929, at the end of the silent era, The Man The Man with a Movie Camera, 1929 written and directed by Dziga Vertov The Man with a Movie Camera, 1929 written and directed by Dziga Vertov with a Movie Camera is the epitome of...

The Mother and the Whore

Jean Eustache's The Mother and the Whore is a searing, painful, revealing, egotistical, irritating, often beautiful document that captures, in orgies of sexual gorging and verbal disgorging, the clash between Left Bank libertinism and an astonishingly deep conservatism deep because it is mystical, rather than political, and is based on matters of life and death, rather than on left and right. The Mother and the Whore lasts three and a half hours. Thus, by conventional measures of Eustache's...

The Portrait of a Lady

As Raging Bull is to Martin Scorsese, Portrait of a Lady is to Jane Campion. Masterworks by filmmakers at the top of their game, each is a study in masochism as the internalization of social currents and riptides one navigates in claiming a sexual identity. To put it crudely, where Scorsese's boxer punishes himself for his failure to achieve an idealized masculinity, Campion's lady thwarts her own desire to escape the bonds of femininity by marrying a two-bit sadist who has contempt not only...

The Power of Kangwon Province

The brightest filmmaker to emerge from South Korean cinema's recent boom years, Hong Sang-soo has been making a career of reinventing the notion of the reverse angle. No, not the editorial exchange of shots of characters engaged in conversation across a breakfast table or bang-banging it out over the tops of tumbleweeds. Hong has a much more metaphysical and broadly spaced sense of give and take. Hong came fully into his own with the masterful The Power of Kangwon Province, in which a young...

The Rules of the Game

Jean Renoir and Carl Koch 110 min. The masterpiece of the personal, plotless cinema is Jean Renoir's The Rules of the Game. And it is in The Rules of the Game that we see the superiority of Renoir over Bergman. Cinema versus theater. Whereas Bergman sustains his scenes through the dramatic climaxes, the theatrical stuff, Renoir avoids any such dramatizations. There is no Aristotle in Renoir. Renoir's people look like people and, again, are The Rules of the Game, 1939...

The Thin Red Line

The year's most enigmatic studio release, written and directed by one of the most puzzling figures in Hollywood, The Thin Red Line projects a sense of wounded diffidence. Terrence Malick's hugely ambitious, austerely hallucinated adaptation of James Jones's 1962 novel a five-hundred-page account of combat in Guadalcanal is a metaphysical platoon movie in which battlefield confusion is melded with an Emersonian meditation on the nature of nature. The first and costliest American victory in World...

The Wind Will Carry Us

We're heading nowhere, a disembodied voice complains as a battered jeep crawls up a winding road through harsh, scrubby terrain. So begins The Wind Will Carry Us the latest and, to my mind, the greatest film by Iranian master Abbas Kiarostami. An engineer and his two never-seen assistants are traveling from Tehran to the remote Kurdish village of Siah Dareh. If the directions they attempt to follow are puzzling, so, too, are their intentions. These outsiders won't say what brings them to Siah...

The World of

Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay and Satyajit Ray 117 min. We have seen Satyajit Ray's Pather Panchali, Aparajito, and The World of Apu, one by one, as they came. Now the new Carnegie Hall Cinema has put all three parts together in a marathon show. Wow It's like reading all of David Copperfield in one day. I have sat through two marathons before. My first one was Pagnol's Marius, Fanny, C sar, ten years ago, in my first cinema fever. I was drunk with it for a long time in my...

Tropical Malady

World cinema's premier maker of mysterious objects, Apichatpong Weerasethakul is on a one-man mission to change the way we watch movies. Rich and strange, postmodern and prehistoric, his films foster an experience of serene bewilderment and for the willing viewer euphoric surrender. They are suffused with a sense of wide-open possibility that sometimes explodes into epiphany as in 2002's sensual pastoral Blissfully Yours, which, a third of the way through, hits the reset button with a...

Trouble in Paradise

Grover Jones and Samson Raphaelson There is no Hollywood movie more insouciantly amoral than Ernst Lubitsch's 1932 Trouble in Paradise. Released in the depths of the Great Depression, Lubitsch's urbane comedy concerns a swank pair of thieves, played by Herbert Marshall and Miriam Hopkins, who not only live together in sin but after successfully fleecing Kay Francis's rich and equally charming widow taxi off into the sunset utterly unrepentant. The movie's white-on-white...

Two or Three Things I Know about

Godard the critic has argued for years that there is no distinction between documentary and nondocumentary cinema that Nanook waiting for his prey and a Hitchcockian assassin were equally valid as truth, for example or that Ford's historical re-creations were the beginnings of cinema v rit . In Two or Three Things, he shows us an interview with a girl in front of a pinball machine and tells her that people never speak naturally in films. That's what I'm trying to do with you. And, of course,...

Unforgiven

David Webb Peoples It begins as they often do in the distance, a lone man silhouetted against the horizon. This time the sky is golden and so is the earth, where the man is digging a grave. The twilight of the Western, of even its revisionist mode, is fading fast. Welcome to cowboy noir. Like his Brechtian White Hunter, Black Heart, Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven is a distinctive combination of didacticism and despair. If it's also his most assured work as an...

White

Samuel Fuller and Curtis Hanson The most sought-after and elusive of shelved studio releases, Samuel Fuller's White Dog has finally been unleashed. The movie gets its theatrical premiere this Friday, nine years after Paramount decided it was too troublesome to open and sent it to the pound. Adapted from Romain Gary's 1970 nonfiction novel, White Dog is an unusually blunt and suggestively metaphoric account of American racism. In the original story, Gary and his then wife...

Winter Soldier

Winter Soldier a straight recording of the confessions of war crimes given by American veterans in Detroit 1971 had an explosive impact on the international press at Cannes 1972. But the horror of what these ordinary, likeable veterans recount and the courage they show by admitting to the blood on their hands is an experience every American owes himself, no matter how sick he is of hearing about the war. If these are the acts we are committing, we should at least take the responsibility of...

Days of Being Wild

Days of Being Wild is the movie with which Wong Kar-wai became Wong Kar-wai the most influential, passionate, and romantic of neo-New Wave directors. Wong called his second feature a reinvention of the disappeared world. Arguably, this is the key movie in Wong's oeuvre, as startling in its context as Hiroshima Mon Amour and Breathless were in theirs. Days of Being Wild is a sort of meta-reverie populated by a cast of beautiful young pop icons Leslie Cheung, Maggie Cheung, Carina Lau, Andy Lau,...

In the Mood for Love

Wong Kar-wai may be the most fetishized as well as the most fetishizing of contemporary filmmakers, and with In the Mood for Love he takes this form of worship as his subject. Boldly mannered yet surprisingly delicate, this wondrously perverse movie not only evokes a lost moment in time but circles around an unrepresentable subject. Mood is the operative word. A love story far more cerebral than it is emotional, In the Mood for Love invests most of its passion in the act of filmmaking . . ....

Au Hasard Balthazar

Robert Bresson's Balthazar is a donkey born, like all beings, to suffer and die needlessly and mysteriously. Hence, the Russian roulettish au hasard in both the title and the arbitrary fragmentation of the framing. It is not that we see everything from Balthazar's point of view as if from some blessed vision of a doomsday donkey, but rather that we see past the meager milestones of Balthazar's existence to the fitful spasms of human vanity and presumption, the pathetic charades of good and...

Theres Something about Mary

Peter Farrelly and Bobby Farrelly There's Something about Mary is less an asteroid sent hurtling toward the audience than a great gobby spitball. Duck if you're squeamish. Proudly lowbrow, hopelessly incorrect, visually strident, and awash in bodily fluids, this third and funniest gross-out yuckfest by Peter and Bobby Farrelly goes a long way in establishing the auteurs of Dumb and Dumber and Kingpin as the conehead's Coen Brothers. A romantic comedy, if not exactly the sort that Nora...

The Thin Blue Line

Film noir, which first cast its shadow in the midst of World War II and flourished for no more than a dozen years, was the nocturnal orchid of Hollywood's garden the most deliriously aestheticized strain in American popular cinema, characterized by a singularly un-American sense of doom. Not the least impressive aspect of Errol Morris's haunting The Thin Blue Line is that without exhibiting a trace of postmodern nostalgia, it's redolent with essence of noir. This brilliantly stylized...

The Merchant of Four Seasons

Rainer Werner Fassbinder's The Merchant of Four Seasons may be the most exquisite achievement in cinema to reach these shores from Germany since the Golden Age of Murnau, Lang, Pabst, et al. in the years Before Hitler. Fassbinder deftly balances style with humanity in such a way that The Merchant of Four Seasons manages to break the heart without betraying the mind. Fassbinder's achievement is aided in no small measure by the extraordinary presences and performances of Hans Hirschmuller as the...

Mans Favorite Sport

John Fenton Murray and Steve McNeil 120 min. I recently watched for the second time Howard Hawks's Man's Favorite Sport , a film that was universally ridiculed when it appeared in 1964 and that I myself hadn't much liked. This time I was delighted and deeply moved by the grace and humor with which the story is told, and moved by the reverberations of a whole substratum of meaning, of sexual antagonism, desire, and despair. The two layers, narrative and allegorical,...

Videodrome

Videodrome is the slickest, most entertaining and ambitious David Cronenberg film I've seen a Boschian brew of lurid S and M, hallucinogenic TV transmissions, and biomorphism run amok. The movie is conceptual gibberish, but its malignant seediness stays with you like a dream. Cronenberg's scummy hero James Woods , a Canadian cable entrepreneur who breakfasts on cold pizza and has a complexion to match, falls under the simultaneous spell of two media emanations. The first is Debbie Harry, the...

The Bicycle Thief

Vittorio De Sica and Cesare Zavattini The most influential movement in film history consisted of about twenty movies produced between 1944 and 1952. Italian neorealism was the original new wave. The inspiration for Jean-Luc Godard and John Cassavetes, Satyajit Ray and Ousmane Sembene, Andr Bazin and cinema verit , neorealism was understood as a double renaissance both the medium's post-World War II rebirth and a means for representing human experience outside the...

Shock Corridor

Samuel Fuller's Shock Corridor is about the most interesting entry in the current loony cycle. Far from assuming a responsible tone, Fuller's surface plot bears the earmarks of the transparent trashiness that characterizes the last Hollywood films of Orson Welles Touch of Evil and Fritz Lang Beyond a Reasonable Doubt . Fuller would have us believe or at least not disbelieve that an ace reporter bucking for the Pulitzer Prize would have himself committed in a mental institution in order to solve...

The Birds

Evan Hunter Drawing from the relatively invisible literary talents of Daphne Du Maurier and Evan Hunter, Alfred Hitchcock has fashioned a major work of cinematic art, and cinematic is the operative term here, not literary or sociological. There is one sequence in The Birds where the heroine is in an outboard motor boat churning across the bay, while the hero's car is racing around the shore road to intercept her on the other side. This race is seen entirely from the...

Wanda

That Barbara Loden, a woman, happens to be the director of Wanda invites the contemporary reviewer to all sorts of speculations about a distinctly female point of view on film. The trouble is that there have been relatively few woman directors in the history of the medium, and of these, even fewer have been more than marginally prominent. Women-written films are something else again. Anita Loos alone could keep and has kept MOMA hopping for months on end, and Betty Comden, Frances Goodrich,...

F for Fake

In F for Fake 1974 , Welles shaped Fran ois Reichenbach's candid footage into a loose-limbed but tautly built cine-essay on two world leaders in fakery the prolific art forger Elmyr de Hory and his biographer Clifford Irving, who himself counterfeited the autobio of Howard Hughes. Bearded and bedraped, Welles serves as self-amused emcee to their strange inventions, and far from passing judgment on these charismatic tricksters, the director admires them as fellow artists and comrade...

Cutter and Bone Cutters

Jeffrey Alan Fiskin Ivan Passer's Cutter and Bone is a bitter neo-noir and an unexpected bonanza of B-movie virtues. It's a thriller but also a critique, underscoring its surgical title by performing a deft and mordant postmortem on the remains of the 1960s counterculture. Passer is a veteran of Prague Spring, so one assumes he knows something about blasted hopes and the powers that be. Set in affluent Santa Barbara, the film harks back to the Nixon-era mode of Polanski's...

Superstar The Karen Carpenter Story

Todd Haynes and Cynthia Schneider Todd Haynes's Superstar is a nearly straightforward docudrama on the life of Karen Carpenter. Opening with the discovery of the singer's death from complications from anorexia nervosa, the film flashes back to detail a saga of hit records, White House engagements, family spats, and backstage collapses as enacted by an ensemble of Barbie dolls. Thanks to this wonderfully suggestive ploy, Carpenter is at once a hapless toy and a perfect role...

The Conformist

The new print of Bernardo Bertolucci's The Conformist 1970 arrives in a torrent of silk and shadow, an eye-watering testimony to the erstwhile dash of international cinema. As with few other films, I envy the newcomer as I envy David Niven for having made love to Merle Oberon that Bertolucci's masterpiece made when he was all of twenty-nine will be the most revelatory experience a fortunate pilgrim will have in a theater this year is a foregone conclusion. And...

The Color of Pomegranates

Most simply described, Sergei Paradjanov's The Color of Pomegranates is a poetic evocation of the life and work of eighteenth-century Armenian troubadour Sayat Nova. Paradjanov has been an international cause c l bre since his 1974 arrest. Now fifty-eight and living in poverty, he is said to be painting, after four years in the gulag. Paradjanov's boisterous, erratic Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, an explosion of lyrical pantheism such as the Soviet cinema had not seen since the salad days of...

Star Spangled to Death

The ultimate underground movie, Star Spangled to Death, Ken Jacobs's epic, bargain-basement assemblage annotates a lyrical junkyard allegory with chunks of mainly 1930s American movies or is it the other way around When Parker Tyler identified the cinematic desire to provide a documentary showcase for the underdog's spontaneous, uncontrolled fantasy, he was surely thinking of Jacobs's desperately beautiful immersion in childish behavior and political despair. Jacobs began shooting Star Spangled...

Shadows

John Cassavetes 78 min. 87 min. Editor's note Jonas Mekas was an early champion of John Cassavetes's Shadows when it first screened in 1958, but he renounced it after the director recut it the next year. What follows is an exchange between Mekas and Cassavetes, as well as J. Hoberman's reviews of both versions. The original Shadows, long thought lost, turned up at the Rotterdam Film Festival in 2004. The same evening there was a screening in November 1959 of John Cassavetes's second...

Pierrot Le Fou La

Pierrot le Fou is the first Godard film I have ever had to stand on line to see, and thus another coterie taste has been engulfed by the crowd. But I wonder what the crowds make of Godard now that he has become popular as well as fashionable. In 1966, when Pierrot le Fou graced the New York Film Festival along with Masculine Feminine, Godard's films never had much of a first run. The pattern was always the same. Each new film would be assailed by his detractors as his biggest mess yet, and even...

The Lovers on the Bridge

Les Amants du Pont Neuf was three years in the making and, now known as The Lovers on the Bridge, has taken twice that long to get an American release. Written and directed by then enfant terrible Leos Carax, this wildly romantic antiromance was attacked for its shameless extravagance and praised for more or less the same reason. The Lovers on the Bridge is as exalted as it is ridiculous an outrageously contrived paean to freedom, a crazy mixture of scabby naturalism and rock-video mescaline...

Breathless i

Jean-Luc Godard Nine years ago, I fell in love with Breathless. Time has aged her since, but poems of chaos, having little structure, are gloriously free from decay. They die young, but as the novelist Parvulesco Jean-Pierre Melville of the film says when asked his ambition in life Devenir immortel . . . et puis mourir. Bout de Souffle is the immortal spirit of Rimbaud's cry I shall lose and come to regard as sacred the disorder of my mind On a hot summer day in 1959,...

Jeanne Dielman Quai du Commerce Bruxelles

At very long last, Chantal Akerman's Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles is receiving a commercial opening in New York. Andrew Sarris isn't reviewing this film, and I doubt that Pauline Kael will either. The New York Times, at least, has to see the movie, but it'll be most surprising if Time, Newsweek, or New York magazine bother to send anyone down to investigate Akerman's truly legendary 1975 feature. Jeanne Dielman is to put it baldly a great movie and one that in film...

Real Life

Albert Brooks, Monica Johnson, and Harry Shearer In Albert Brooks's first and funniest feature, Real Life 1979 , Brooks plays Albert Brooks, a supremely self-absorbed filmmaker who, assisted by a crew with helmet-cams, sets out to immortalize the ordinary life of a Phoenix veterinarian Charles Grodin and his family. Obnoxiously abrasive and manipulative, he's comparable to Rupert Pupkin. After trashing the hall of mirrors in which he finds himself, Brooks whines that the...

Blue Velvet

Blue Velvet is a film of ecstatic creepiness a stunning vindication for writer-director David Lynch. This is the first time since his midnight classic Eraserhead that Lynch has vented the full force of his sensibility, and the result is astonishing. Continually unpredictable, Blue Velvet is generically a teen coming-of-age film crossed with a noir. But Lynch is weirdest precisely when attempting to be most normal. He attacks the material with the sublime discordance of Charles Ives singing...

Contempt

Even in the most enlightened circles, the mere mention of Jean-Luc Godard directing a million-dollar international coproduction of Alberto Moravia's Ghost at Noon in Rome and Capri for Carlo Ponti and Joe Levine seemed the height of improbability from the very beginning. Once Contempt was completed, Levine was shocked to discover that he had a million-dollar art film on his hands with no publicity pegs on which to hang his carpetbag. Levine ordered Godard to add some nude scenes, then...