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...

Shoah

Claude Lanzmann's Shoah is not simply the most ambitious film ever attempted on the extermination of the Jews it's a work that treats the problem of representation so scrupulously, it could have been inspired by the Old Testament injunction against graven images. The Holocaust is unique in that it creates a circle of flames around itself, a limit which cannot be crossed because a certain absolute horror cannot be transmitted, Lanzmann wrote in a 1979 essay, ostensibly about the mini-series...

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...

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...

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...

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...