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...

Before Sunset

Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, and Ethan Hawke A modest movie and a near impossible feat, Richard Linklater's sweet, smart, and deeply romantic Before Sunset reunites Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy), the endearingly prolix protagonists of his 1995 Before Sunrise, nine years later in Celine's hometown, Paris. Illustrating the infinite possibility of its title, Before Sunrise chronicled the chance meeting and twelve-hour adventure of these soul mates...

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...

Chinatown

Robert Towne I suspect that a great many people are vaguely disappointed that Chinatown does not cater to their nostalgia more extensively than it does. Perhaps it is considered cheating to pretend to be in the past without really working very hard at it. Certainly, Chinatown never evokes the films of the 1930s with any consistency. There is simply too much of a revisionist spirit in Roman Polanski (visual), Robert Towne (verbal), and Jack Nicholson (acting) to provide...

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

Jim Jarmusch has always been proudly idiosyncratic a stylist at once stubborn and fey. Stranger Than Paradise pioneered the neo-beatnik mode of hip Americana bleak, deadpan, borderline sentimental that Jarmusch would elaborate in subsequent features with varied success. But the indie landscape has shifted in the 1990s, and Dead Man marks something of a departure a fairy-tale Western that howls in the moonlight. Uncompromising from the get-go, Dead Man opens the road with a ten-minute,...

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...

Faces

I saw John Cassavetes's new film, Faces, three months ago, at a midnight preview. The invited audience hated it they thought it was boring and much much too long. I thought it was great. It was a very moving film, an original film, a difficult-to-make film. But I was in a bad spot. I remembered my experiences with Shadows. I figured, if I'll start prais- ing the film, Cassavetes will think that his film must be too experimental why else would I like it So he will start reshooting it, to make it...

Fight Club

David Fincher's Fight Club is not a brainless mosh pit. Nor is it a transgressive masterpiece. As provocations go, this malevolently gleeful satire (closely adapted from Chuck Palahniuk's confrontational first novel) is extremely funny, surprisingly well-acted, and boldly designed at least until its steel-and-chrome souffl falls apart. Sometimes a skyscraper is only a skyscraper and a gun only a gun, but not here. Set amid the repressive trappings of ubiquitous phalloc-racy,...

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...

Gun Crazy

MacKinlay Kantor and Dalton Trumbo Brisk, percussive, a veritable primer for intelligent camera placement and a film of great plastic beauty besides, Joseph H. Lewis's Gun Crazy has been mythologized as classic noir, an archetypal B, the real Bonnie and Clyde. The French love it. This is the kind of movie they don't make any more and it's as if they never did. From the moment the tabloid title (an improvement over the original Deadly Is the Female) screams up on the...

Halloween

John Carpenter and Debra Hill It's useless to take a lofty view of an instant schlock horror classic, but there are reasons why John Carpenter's Halloween stands with George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead and, before that, with Psycho. The resemblance of Halloween to the Romero film an assault on credibility couched in documentary prose is the utter implacability of the antagonist, a faceless psychopath of terrifying strength and preternatural ubiquity who lays...

Was Born

Akira Fushimi and Geibei Ibushiya One of the rare, joyful movie experiences. Ozu re-creates his childhood. The childhood of two boys whose parents move into a new neighborhood. Ozu works with very carefully selected details and with perfect execution. The feelings, thoughts, games, relationships of the two boys and their friends are outlined with realism, humor, and growing social consciousness. There are lines in this movie on the subject of schools, education, rich,...

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...

Introduction

For five decades, the Village Voice's movie reviews have been uniquely attuned to New York City's film culture. Written by and for cinephiles, the paper's film section has filled the void left by the timidity and the complacency of mainstream movie reviewing. The Voice's film pages recontextualized Hollywood and explored the avant-garde no other mass publication has produced a body of criticism as politically engaged and historically grounded, as dedicated to seeking out the new, the marginal,...

Jlgjlg

Like Rembrandt, the great, grizzled Godard ages in his studio, a mirror propped before the easel. His newest self-portrait, JLG JLG, is at turns and as usual sedate, silly, and sublime. From the beginning, Godard's films have always been speculums and speculations, self-portraits in convex lenses, and, as an aging Fritz Lang put it in Contempt, where his project was nothing less than The Odyssey, You must always finish what you have started. As Roger Leenhardt put it in A Married Woman At any...

Johnny Guitar

Philip Yordan Before there was Jerry Lewis, there was Johnny Guitar. Nicholas Ray's 1954 Western a luridly operatic mix of Freudian sexual pathology and political subtext, featuring Joan Crawford's grim, glam gunslinger was dismissed by American reviewers but embraced by Cahiers du Cin ma as an auteurist cause c l bre Le cin ma c'est Nicholas Ray, in JeanLuc Godard's exuberant formulation. Like all cult films, Johnny Guitar is a pop-cultural magpie's nest, conflating...

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...

LAge dOr

Luis Bu uel and Salvador Dal Luis Bu uel began his movie career with the most notorious opening sequence in movie history. Un Chien Andalou, which Bu uel and his then pal Salvador Dal first sprang on the world in late 1929, begins with the apparent close-up of a razor slicing open the eyeball of an impassively seated actress. Bu uel and Dal were young punks hoping to impress Paris's ruling surrealist clique. With Un Chien Andalou, they succeeded beyond their wildest...

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...

LAvventura

Michelangelo Antonioni, Elio Bartolini, and So far this year it has been all Breathless, but now it is time for another blast of trumpets. The sixth feature film of Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni, L'Avventura, will probably be even more controversial than its French predecessor, which has been conveniently misunderstood as a problem tract on old age, childhood, juvenile delinquency, miscegenation, nuclear warfare, or what have you. With L'Avventura, the...

Les Vampires

Film junkies with a taste for the marvelous will need no urging to declare Thursday a holiday and head for the Museum of Modern Art basement to catch one of the rare local unspoolings of Louis Feuillade's Les Vampires. The ten chapters of Feuillade's 1915 serial are about forty minutes each with intermissions, the show runs over seven hours. From The Severed Head through The Bloody Nuptials, the saga is complete although the print has no intertitles a mixed blessing that accelerates the action...

Los Olvidados

Luis Alcoriza and Luis Bu uel A great, great movie, as well as a personal favorite, Los Olvidados (The Forgotten Ones) is the means by which exiled Luis Bu uel reestablished his international reputation. This low-budget account of Mexico City street kids, inspired by actual cases, as well as by Bu uel's impressions of his new country, is a masterpiece of social surrealism and the founding work of Third World barrio horror. Los Olvidados is strong enough to make a hardened...

Love Streams

Ted Allan and John Cassavetes John Cassavetes's final film, all too rarely screened and still underappreciated, is at once a culmination of the director's obsessions and his most atypical work. It's a movie that gives up its mysteries slowly flirting with theatricality, inserting dream sequences, concluding on a brazenly surreal enigma. Cassavetes stars as Robert Harmon, a tough-guy novelist with unorthodox research methods. Gena Rowlands, magnificent as ever, is...

Marketa Lazarova

Frantisek Pavlicek and Frantisek Vlacil With just a handful of films to prove it, Frantisek Vlacil was the Czech New Wave's formalist, postexpressionist wrecking ball. In the modest window between Moscow's Twentieth Congress in 1956 and the tanks of1968, Forman, Passer, and Menzel made Bohemia safe for the Oscars, Juraj Jakubisko pursued his orgiastic apocalypses, and Jan Nemec crystallized the Kafkaesque suffocation of extra-Soviet life. But briefly, Vlacil was the...

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...

Naked

Mike Leigh once offered a good biblical word for his movies lamentations. They lamented, he said, how difficult life is. His brave new film, Naked, the most biblical of all, could also be called a laceration. It's painted in bruise colors, especially black and blue. Why is it called Naked Because it's about a man, Johnny (David Thewlis), stripped to his flayed skin. Because it's about Homo sapiens dangling at the end of the evolutionary vine. Because the stupid body lies at the core of the...

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...

Out of the Past

Daniel Mainwaring Jacques Tourneur's quietist Out of the Past represents the film noir high end as compared to the pulpy inventions of Edgar G. Ulmer's low-end Detour. It's distinguished by Tourneur's masterful, eerie control of surfaces (dialogue recorded at a customarily low level while visuals glide forward with otherworldly grace), as well as a jokey, hard-boiled argot (Well, I really hadn't ought). The movie isn't so much keyed to Robert Mitchum's hunky...

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...

Pickpocket

Pickpocket is the fifth of six films Robert Bresson has directed since 1943 and only the fourth to be released in America. You may not like Bresson, but you have to respect him. Or, as one of his most fervent admirers explained to me several years ago, Bresson is simply too good for people. There is something unearthly about his art, an art of austerity so bleak as to make Carl Dreyer look like a sinful sybarite. Yet Bresson is a Catholic and Dreyer a Protestant one expects Catholic art to be...

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...

Playtime

Jacques Lagrange and Jacques Tati Playtime is unquestionably one of the most important films of the last decade, and yet it is probably for the best that it comes too late. We are surely better equipped today than in 1967 to understand a film such as Playtime, a film incredibly avant-garde, now that so much of the modern cinema has passed before our eyes and been partially digested. Playtime was more than three years in the making. Anyone seeing the film might wonder why....

Primer

A repeat-viewing brain twister to file alongside millennial puzzle films like Mulholland Drive and Memento, Shane Carruth's Primer unites physics and metaphysics in an ingenious guerrilla reinvention of cinematic science fiction. Its analog-egghead approach may be the fresh- Primer, 2004 written and directed by Shane Carruth Primer, 2004 written and directed by Shane Carruth est thing the genre has seen since 2001. Less H. G. Wells than J. G. Ballard, Carruth's prodigious no-budget debut is...

Pulp Fiction

More than anything else, Quentin Tarantino is a spinner of tall tales the superbly garrulous, living embodiment of the movie enthusiast's hey-wouldn't-it-be-great-if . . . aesthetic. Pulp Fiction is a movie of interlocking stories set in an imaginary demimonde and held together by languorous fades, humorous ellipses, and nonstop conversation. The comic structure is largely based on a series of two-handers Tim Roth playing verbal footsie with Amanda Plummer, a goofily stoned John Travolta...

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...

Rose Hobart

Rose Hobart premiered in 1937 at the Julien Levy gallery, then the main surrealist venue in New York, as part of an evening of Goofy Newsreels. No riot ensued, although Salvador Dal reportedly made a violent scene and jealously accused Cornell of plagiarizing his thoughts. Dal 's behavior was atrocious but understandable, for Rose Hobart ranks with Un Chien Andalou as a surrealist masterpiece and in some respects, it is a more profoundly radical work, introducing notions of distance and...

Rosetta

Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne Rosetta s stylized rough-and-tumble v rit is established from the onset, as its teenage protagonist slams through a factory, fighting ineffectually and violently to keep the job from which, for reasons never specified, she's just been fired. The handheld camera is kept disorientingly close to Rosetta (Emilie Dequenne) and will remain so for nearly every minute of this pummeling, jagged, and extremely well-edited film. This is the second feature by the...

Safe

Like all of Todd Haynes's work, Safe doesn't make concessions to conventional expectations. It could be that people are put off by the ostensible subject, environmental illness technically, multiple chemical sensitivity or, as the movie puts it, a flat-out allergic reaction to the twentieth century. One still and luminous California evening, stepping out of the family Mercedes into the family garage, Carol White (Julianne Moore) sneezes. Bless you, replies her husband, Gregg (Xander Berkeley)....

Salesman

Albert Maysles, David Maysles, and Charlotte Zwerin I have been delaying writing anything about the Maysleses' Salesman. I consider I shouldn't waste any of my space on films that are widely enough discussed in the regular press even if I like the film. Salesman opened in a large commercial theater and is doing an average business it doesn't need my help. If it needs then it's too bad. Somehow, during the last few years, I don't seem to feel much pity for films or filmmakers who fail...

Sans Soleil

An eccentric rumination on downtown Tokyo, Chris Marker's Sans Soleil is philosophical journalism. Emerging from the compost of newsreels and travelogues, Sans Soleil is rooted in the least pretentious, most debased documentary forms. But it's as though Walter Benjamin or Jorge Luis Borges had scripted The Sky Above, the Mud Below. The mysterious Marker (best known here for his sci-fi slide show La Jet e) appears on the continuum of French cineastes somewhere between Alain Resnais (a one-time...

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)...

Taxi Driver

Paul Schrader Taxi Driver is an interesting movie if you forget about any preconceptions you may have on the subject. I don't know what I expected. Girls changing their pantyhose in the back seat Curbside Kafkas An itinerary of the five boroughs Some instant sociology After all, I live in New York and often take cabs. I have my own ideas and impressions. Perhaps I am too close to the subject. Anyway, Taxi Driver made very little sense to me. Robert De Niro's Travis...

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 Decalogue

Krzysztof Kieslowski and Krzysztof Piesiewicz The breakdown of traditional (read quaint) moral imperatives is a subject rubbed in our faces with every film we see. Vengeance is mine, sayeth the godfather. Thou shalt not rat on thy pals. But since in real life most of us are deprived of the authority provided by organized crime, we find ourselves employing other, more undefined, codes of conduct. An investigation into actual ethical behavior is what Polish director...

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 Evil Dead

The Anthology Film Archives would have been the ideal place for the world premiere of The Evil Dead. It cannibalizes The Exorcist, Night of the Living Dead, The Day of the Triffids, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and a Three Stooges classic, A Plumbing We Will Go. The script is balderdash most sane adults, if they sit it out, will be revolted by the splattery climax. Why write of it For three good reasons three new, young, impressive talents Tom Sullivan, the creator of the stop-motion and makeup...

The Flower Thief i

Taylor Mead of The Flower Thief is the happy innocent, the unspoiled idiot. He has a beautiful flower soul. He will go to heaven like all children do. The idiot and the child are unspoiled by the conventions, laws, and ideas of the world. The idiot today is the only character through which a poet can reveal the beauty of living. Salinger chose children. The entire beat generation chose idiocy. The idiot (and the beat) is above (or under) our daily business, money, morality. It is bad, it is...

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 Searchers

Nugent John Ford's The Searchers always brings to mind Albany's final words on Lear The eldest hath borne most we that are young Shall never see so much, nor live so long. Since I can testify that it doesn't take long at all for the youngest to become the oldest, as viewers we pretty much carry around both young and old perspectives. Ford's hero Ethan Edwards (John Wayne) may object to being called Uncle or Sir, Grandpa or Methuselah, but like Lear he's another...

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...

Tribulation Alien Anomalies under America

Craig Baldwin's Tribulation 99 Alien Anomalies under America has been described, most aptly, by its maker as a pseudo pseudo-documentary obsessively organized into 99 paranoid rants. This forty-eight-minute masterpiece is at once a sci-fi cheapster, a skewed history of U.S. interventionism in Latin America, a satire of conspiratorial thinking, and an essential piece of current Americana the missing link between JFK and The Rapture (and a better movie than either). WARNING, the first of many...

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...

Weekend

Weekend consolidates Jean-Luc Godard's position as the most disconcerting of all contemporary directors, a veritable paragon of paradoxes, violent and yet vulnerable, the most elegant stylist and the most vulgar polemicist, the most remorseful classicist and the most relentless modernist, the man of the moment and the artist for the ages. When I bore witness to Weekend at the Berlin Film Festival back in June, Godard seemed to be tuned in to the youthful frequency of the future. He lost me...

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...