'Mildred Pierce' 1945: Joan Crawford 'Terrific' in Film Noir or Melodrama?

Joan Crawford in 'Mildred Pierce': Best Actress Oscar winner enjoyed a triumphant comeback. 'Mildred Pierce' 1945 movie review: Very entertaining 'soap opera' Time has a way of making some films seem grander than they really are. A good example is Mildred Pierce, the 1945 black-and-white melodrama directed by Casablanca's Michael Curtiz, and that won star Joan Crawford a Best Actress Oscar. Mildred Pierce is in […]

'Fanny and Alexander' Review: Ingmar Bergman Brilliant & Disturbing Film

'Fanny and Alexander' movie: Ingmar Bergman brilliant classic with Bertil Guve as Alexander Ekdahl. 'Fanny and Alexander' movie review: Last Ingmar Bergman 'filmic film' Why Ingmar Bergman's Fanny and Alexander / Fanny och Alexander bears its appellation is a mystery – one of many in the director's final 'filmic film' – since the first titular character, Fanny (Pernilla Allwin) is at best a third- or […]

'Little Caesar' Movie: Edward G. Robinson Iconic – But Badly Dated – Gangster

Edward G. Robinson, Little Caesar Little Caesar is a good example of a film that is historically important, but that has dated very poorly. Tony Gaudio's camera work is mediocre, Warner Bros. musical director Erno Rapee's spare soundtrack is garbled, and the acting is for the most part wooden. Even Edward G. Robinson, who became a star in this role, is good – but hardly […]

'Husbands' Movie Review: John Cassavetes 'Men-Boys' Drama

Ben Gazzara, Peter Falk in John Cassavetes' Husbands John Cassavetes was a filmmaker who made his independent films in two primary modes: brilliant character-driven masterpieces like Faces, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, and Opening Night, or character-driven mediocrities with “moments,” like Shadows, A Woman Under the Influence, and Gloria. Husbands (1970) falls somewhere in between. Husbands is nowhere near a great film, for most […]

'A Face in the Crowd': Script Mars Cautionary Tale About Dangers of Populism

Patricia Neal and Andy Griffith, A Face in the Crowd Elia Kazan's 1957 drama A Face in the Crowd, written by Kazan's On the Waterfront collaborator Budd Schulberg, is neither the forgotten masterpiece its champions claim it to be nor a minor work to be disregarded as it was for several decades. In fact, A Face in the Crowd is a good though clearly flawed […]

'Ulysses Gaze' Movie: Harvey Keitel Stars for Theo Angelopoulos

Harvey Keitel, Ulysses' Gaze Greek filmmaker Theo Angelopoulos' 1995 effort To Vlemma tou Odyssea / Ulysses' Gaze is the first of that director's four films that I have seen that is not unequivocally a great work of art. Although there are arguments that can be made in favor of that claim, the film's 173-minute running time is much too long, especially considering that Ulysses' Gaze […]

'Capturing Reality: The Art of Documentary': Truth vs. Reality on Film

Pepita Ferrari's Capturing Reality: The Art of Documentary Pepita Ferrari's 2008 documentary on the insights of the documentarian's craft, Capturing Reality: The Art of Documentary, is a solid effort. However, despite its nature, Capturing Reality never does what it celebrates in the works of others: it fails to innovate and explore every way that true stories can be told. In fact, Ferrari's 97-minute film consists […]

Muhammad Ali: 'The Greatest,' 'A.k.a. Cassius Clay' & 'Made in Miami'

Muhammad Ali Growing up in the 1970s, the specter of heavyweight boxer Muhammad Ali – whom I could never stand – was everywhere. Contrary to opinions voiced about him post-Parkinson's Disease, Ali was the most despised athlete of that era. The most beloved was actually soccer superstar Pelé. Nonetheless, from that time on a raft of mediocre documentaries-cum-hagiographies have been made of the man. Not […]

'Close-Up' Review: Abbas Kiarostami Movie in Pantheon of Quasi-Documentaries

Abbas Kiarostami's Close-Up Abbas Kiarostami is one of those “name” non-American directors who is looked to as a god. The low-budget Nema-ye Nazdik / Close-Up is the second Kiarostami effort I have seen and it is an excellent film. [Note: spoilers ahead] Close-Up is a pseudo-documentary – not a mockumentary, even though it has been labeled as such. Written and directed by Kiarostami between the […]

'Ran': Akira Kurosawa Classic

Akira Kurosawa's Ran “Critical cribbing” is a term I coined in regard to the tendency of critics, in all fields, to not engage a work of art directly, but rather to fall back on lazily repeating claims that have been made by others about the work they are reviewing. Sometimes, these are positive blurbs; other times, they are bits of misinformation repeated endlessly – e.g., […]

'The Sweet Hereafter' Movie Review: Surprisingly Oscar-Nominated Atom Egoyan

Ian Holm, Sarah Polley, The Sweet Hereafter Some films are well crafted but lifeless. Others err by believing they can too readily make an audience care for a character just by having a traumatic situation beset him early on. Director and screenwriter Atom Egoyan's 1997 drama The Sweet Hereafter suffers from both maladies. Though not a bad film, it certainly isn't a great film, either […]

'The War Game' Movie Review: Nuclear Holocaust in England

'The War Game.' For anyone who thinks that those 50-pack mega-DVD sets of public domain films put out by several different video companies are worthless, I would argue that the amount of films you get for the money is worth it, even if all were mediocre. I would also add that each DVD package comes with at least 8-10 enjoyable films, a few true classics […]

'Blade Runner' Analysis: No Single Vision

Harrison Ford in Ridley Scott's Blade Runner There is simply no scene in Blade Runner that approaches that moment in Au hasard Balthazar. Indeed, Scott doesn't even try, for Blade Runner is one of those movies whose reputation rests almost entirely upon the “criticism of intent”: a noxious reiteration of the intentional fallacy. Fans and supporters of the film simply toss around ideas of what […]

'Blade Runner' Review: Ridley Scott-Harrison Ford Sci-Fier

Ridley Scott's dystopian 1982 sci-fi drama Blade Runner is one of those Hollywood productions whose initially mixed reviews were actually closer to the mark than the decades of hagiography that followed. That's not to say that Blade Runner is a bad film; it's only a much-ballyhooed mediocrity chiefly due to its sluggish screenplay. Adapted by Hampton Fancher and David Peoples from the equally so-so novel […]

'Casablanca': Humprey Bogart-Ingrid Bergman Classic 'Nowhere Near Greatness'

Ingrid Bergman, Humphrey Bogart, Casablanca About three years ago, I finally gave in to watch Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life (1946) for the first time. I had hesitated because of the five- and ten-minute snippets of the film I had seen, and for its reputation as a hokey Christmas story “chestnut.” Well, was I wrong, for It's a Wonderful Life is a great film […]

'Last Year at Marienbad' Review: Alain Resnais' Film Masterpiece

Alain Resnais' Last Year at Marienbad: Intertextuality via cinematic 'touchstone.' Forget all prior claims you've read about Alain Resnais,” 90-minute, black-and-white effort L'année dernière à Marienbad / Last Year at Marienbad (1961) – from the bad to the good, from publicity nonsense which declaims the three main characters are named after letters (they are actually unnamed), and watch it raw, for only then you'll realize […]

'The Fallen Idol' Review: Carol Reed Before 'The Third Man'

Michèle Morgan, Ralph Richardson, The Fallen Idol The 1948 drama The Fallen Idol is the third film I've seen by British filmmaker Carol Reed. I'd previously watched the dreadful Oscar-winning musical Oliver! (1968) and the stolid biopic The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965), featuring Charlton Heston as Michelangelo. I've also seen The Third Man, the 1949 thriller attributed to Reed, though I've always hedged upon […]

'Mr. Deeds Goes to Town' Review: Frank Capra Classic

Gary Cooper, Jean Arthur, Frank Capra There is a tendency among some to think that all the art produced by a great artist is great. This is false, but it gives cover for bad critics who just recycle old blurbs about said artist. Think of the fawning that goes on in discussions of Shakespeare. Although he could be a great writer, all but a dozen […]

'It Happened One Night': Frank Capra Directs Recalcitrant Stars Clark Gable & Claudette Colbert

It Happened One Night with Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert. It is a very rare thing when a light-hearted comedy, something that is quintessentially the stuff of a “good movie,” breaches into that territory where the term “good film” can also be applied, but Frank Capra's It Happened One Night (1934), adapted by Capra's longtime collaborator Robert Riskin from Samuel Hopkins Adams' short story “Night […]

'The 400 Blows': François Truffaut Classic

Jean Pierre Léaud, The 400 Blows In 1959, a pair of newly released French films were instantly hailed as classics, going on to become the twin pillars of the Nouvelle Vague, or New Wave. One, Jean-Luc Godard's À bout de souffle / Breathless, was bad; the other, François Truffaut's Les quatre cents coups / The 400 Blows, was good. But despite their reputation, neither film […]

'Straw Dogs' Review: Infamous Rape Scene

Dustin Hoffman, Susan George, Straw Dogs If there has ever been a more over-interpreted and misinterpreted film than director Sam Peckinpah's 1971 drama Straw Dogs, I've yet to encounter it. Citizen Kane and 2001: A Space Odyssey have had more ink spilled over them, but most of the ideas tossed about are on the money and far less is read into them. Also, those two […]

'Amarcord' Review: Federico Fellini Classic

Federico Fellini's Amarcord has often been linked with Ingmar Bergman's Fanny and Alexander as films made by old men looking back on their youth. While this is true, Amarcord has a loose narrative structure in which the lives of many characters are detailed in comic vignettes, whereas Fanny and Alexander is a straightforward drama. In fact, Amarcord shares a deeper affinity with another work that […]

'Forbidden Planet' Review: Classic Science-Fiction Movie

Leslie Nielsen, Anne Francis, Robby the Robot, Forbidden Planet. When one thinks of 1950s science-fiction films, one thinks of the sort of schlocky black-and-white B movies that were parodied on the old Mystery Science Theater 3000 television show. Yet, while there were a whole lot of films like Plan 9 from Outer Space and Robot Monster, the 1950s did have some truly good sci-fi movies, […]

'The Conversation' Movie: Francis Ford Coppola Paranoid Classic

The Conversation with Gene Hackman. There are some works of art that are both obviously derivative and just as obviously inferior to the originals. Those simply ape the earlier work, tweak a few minor things, and try to pass off their theft as an “homage.” The Conversation (1974), written and directed by Francis Ford Coppola and winner of the Cannes Film Festival's Palme d'Or, is […]

'Breathless' Review: Jean-Luc Godard Wildly Overrated Classic?

Jean-Paul Belmondo, Jean Seberg, Breathless The fact that an artist writes boringly to convey boredom, or childishly to convey puerility, has no effect on the resultant work being neither boring nor puerile. Self-awareness of a flaw does not alleviate the flaw. For that to not be true, intent in art would have to matter. In other words, all art would necessarily have to be accompanied […]

'Umberto D.' Review: Vittorio De Sica and Indifference to Human Suffering

Flike, Carlo Battisti, Umberto D. Lost between the glare of The Bicycle Thief (1948) and his later films with Sophia Loren, Vittorio De Sica's 1952 drama Umberto D. stands as an almost forgotten masterpiece of Italian neorealism and one of the last films that could claim to be of that movement alone. Upon its release, Umberto D. was pilloried by a few cineastes who, unable […]

'Blow-Up' Movie Analysis: Michelangelo Antonioni Great Work of Art

'Blow-Up' with David Hemmings and Veruschka. 'Blow-Up' movie analysis: Michelangelo Antonioni creates great work of art and philosophy Made in Great Britain in 1966, the flat-out great Blow-Up (in the U.K., Blow-Up) was Michelangelo Antonioni's first English-language effort. “Inspired” by Argentinean writer Julio Cortázar's 1959 short story Las babas del diablo (literally, “The Devil's Drool”), Blow-Up was nominated for two Academy Awards – Best Director […]

'Red' Movie Review: Brilliant Film with Career-Capping Performance

'Red' movie: Jean-Louis Trintignant and Irène Jacob. 'Red' movie review: 'Brilliant' Krzysztof Kieslowski film The final film in Krzysztof Kieslowski's Three Colors (“Trois couleurs”) trilogy, the 1994 release Three Colors: Red / Trois couleurs: Rouge, is almost universally acclaimed as the best of the three. For once, the general consensus is correct; but then again, if one is to believe some of the online reviews […]

'Seven Samurai' Analysis: Akira Kurosawa 1954 Classic Keeps Improving

Seven Samurai with Toshiro Mifune. 'Seven Samurai' analysis: Akira Kurosawa movie gets better after repeated viewings Some films get better after repeated viewings. Akira Kurosawa's 1954 black-and-white drama Seven Samurai / Shichinin no samurai is one of them. It fully deserved winning that year's Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival, as well as its Academy Award nominations for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (black and […]

'The Trip to Bountiful' Review: Geraldine Page Best Actress

Geraldine Page, The Trip to Bountiful Greatness in one medium does not assure greatness in another. One need only look at Peter Masterson's 1985 film version of Horton Foote's play The Trip to Bountiful to realize this. Yes, there are great elements to be found in the film's direction, acting, and writing. In fact, Foote's adaptation of his won play is outstanding in the way […]

'Drunken Angel': Akira Kurosawa in 'Unformed' Pre-Masterpiece Stage

Watching Akira Kurosawa's 1948 black-and-white effort Yoidore Tenshi / Drunken Angel is an interesting experience, for he clearly had not mastered the art form, yet. Even so, there is so much that is good in Drunken Angel – touches that would become great in just a few years. It's like looking at a fetus and seeing distinguishable characteristics of its parents, though none is fully […]

'The End of Summer' Movie Review: Yasujiro Ozu Classic

Yasujiro Ozu classic When an artist has reached a level of such high art that he and his work can be spoken of as being in the top tier of his art form, something terrible happens: often brilliant – but not quite ineffably so – work is looked upon with a lesser eye by critics and audiences alike. This is not an unnatural development; once […]

'The Sacrifice': Andrei Tarkovsky 'Exercise in Cinema Appreciation

Watching Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky's final work, Offret / The Sacrifice (1986), is an exercise in cinema appreciation. That's not because The Sacrifice is a great film, but because it has great moments interspersed with moments of sheer boredom. In fact, The Sacrifice is one of those rare films that goes to the antipodes of what is good and bad in that art form. Overall, […]

'The Man from London' Review: Béla Tarr Film Noir

'The Man from London' analysis Style over substance. That is the plaint of many a critic when they come across a film or book or any work of art they do not like, but which has undeniable merit, at least technically, if not in a few other measures as well. But the fact is that my opening words have little to do with most of […]

'It Came from Beneath the Sea': Cult Horror Classic

I looked through one of my DVD sets, Columbia Pictures' “The Fantastic Films of Ray Harryhausen, Legendary Science Fiction Series,” and plucked an old fave of mine to rewatch: the 78-minute, black-and-white, 1955 classic It Came from Beneath the Sea. While not one of the more hyped Ray Harryhausen productions, this sci-fi effort is still a cut above the usual drive-in fare of that era. […]

'The Limey': Steven Soderbergh Thriller

Director Steven Soderbergh's 1999 so-called crime drama The Limey is easily the best Soderbergh effort I've seen. That's partly due to the innovative narrative structure, which makes all but the last few minutes of this great film a flashback. The rest is due to an excellent script by Lem Dobbs, whose other great success came a year earlier, in Alex Proyas' sci-fi thriller Dark City. […]

'My Kid Could Paint That' Review: Art or Con Art?

In a real sense, the 83-minute documentary My Kid Could Paint That is one of the most disgusting films of all time. It disgusts because a) it so vividly displays the utter nonsense and stupidity of the modern art scamming that has gone on for the last half century or more (especially in Abstract Expressionism) – and that's a good thing; and b) it so […]

'Days of '36' Theo Angelopoulos

Greek film director Theo Angelopoulos' 1972 effort Meres Tou '36 / Days of '36, winner of the International Federation of Film Critics award at the Berlin Film Festival, is the least of the several films of his that I've seen. It is also, by over a decade and a half, the earliest one I've seen so far, and at one hour and 45 minutes it […]

'Man Bites Dog' Review: Benoît Poelvoorde

The 1992 Belgian mockumentary C'est arrivé près de chez vous / Man Bites Dog (or, somewhat literally, It Happened in Your Neighborhood) is one of those films that is neither bad nor good, and not really its own “thing,” either. By that I mean that it is manifestly influenced by works that came before it, so it is nothing original, while also displaying techniques that […]

'Fire' Movie: Deepa Mehta Tackles Difficult Lesbian Relationship

I watched the 1996 Canadian drama Fire by Indian filmmaker Deepa Mehta after having long heard of its taboo nature, based mainly on its depiction of lesbianism. And while not a silly film – such as the softcore When Night Is Falling or the horrid Hollywood 'Hook'em' Brokeback Mountain – Fire is nowhere near a great film, either. As for the lesbianism, there is very little […]

'Stardust Memories' Review: Woody Allen, Charlotte Rampling

One of the interesting things about a great work of art is how, upon re-experience a) it holds up and/or b) deepens into something even better. From the first time I saw Woody Allen's 88-minute black-and-white 1980 effort Stardust Memories (made early on in Woody's Golden Era of 1977-1992) on a VHS tape, I knew I was watching one of the greatest films ever made. […]

'Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom' Review: Pier Paolo Pasolini vs. Fascism

Why is it that bad artists always try to justify their garbage by claiming to be experimental, political, or any other label that does not pertain to the quality of the artwork itself? Well, it's simple – they cannot justify it in any other way. Naturally, when the film or novel or painting has been banned in many places, it only allows the puerile artist […]

'Sansho the Bailiff' Kenji Mizoguchi

Sanshô Dayû / Sansho the Bailiff (1954) Dir.: Kenji Mizoguchi. Scr.: Fuji Yahiro; from the old legend and Ogai Mori's 1915 short story "Sansho the Steward." Cast: Shindô Eitarô, Kyoko Kagawa, Yoshiaki Hanayagi   One of the nostra about Japanese film director Kenji Mizoguchi is that he is 'the most Japanese of all filmmakers.' Another is that, compared to his two titanic contemporaries, Yasujiro Ozu […]

'Woyzeck': Werner Herzog 'Lesser' Effort Superior to 'Hollywood Masterpieces'

Woyzeck with Klaus Kinski. Werner Herzog and Klaus Kinski collaborated on five features: Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972), Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979), Woyzeck (1979), Fitzcarraldo (1982), and Cobra Verde (1987). In all five films Kinski played the titular character – a multinational group consisting of the following backgrounds: Spanish, Transylvanian, German, Irish, and Brazilian. The father of actors Nicolai Kinski, Nastassja Kinski, and Pola […]

'Major Dundee': Sam Peckinpah & Charlton Heston Near-Great Western

Sam Peckinpah's 1965 Western Major Dundee is a near-great film with a checkered history. The tale of its mangling by its studio, Columbia, which took it out of Peckinpah's hands is as well known as the butchery that accompanied Erich von Stroheim's Greed, and Orson Welles' The Magnificent Ambersons and Touch of Evil. That said, Columbia's restored 136-minute DVD version really shines – even though […]

'The Passion of Anna': Liv Ullmann & Max von Sydow in 'Great' Ingmar Bergman Classic

The Passion of Anna with Liv Ullmann. Ingmar Bergman's 1969 drama En Passion / A Passion (in the U.S., mistitled as The Passion of Anna) is a great film – in fact, it may be the best of Bergman's mid-to-late-1960s efforts dealing with human relationships and the Self – e.g., Persona, Hour of the Wolf, Shame. A Passion stars many of Bergman's retinue of actors: […]

'Il Grido' 1957: Michelangelo Antonioni Neorealist Classic

'Il Grido' 1957: Michelangelo Antonioni at his Neo-Realist best So much attention has been paid to Italian filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni's films from the 1960s that his earlier Neo-Realist efforts have been overlooked – as if they represented the work of nothing more than a talented tyro. But even though Antonioni was not as consciously “experimental” in his early films as he was in those of […]

'Little Dieter Needs to Fly': Werner Herzog

Little Dieter Needs to Fly (1997) Dir. / Scr.: Werner Herzog. Cast: Dieter Dengler     Little Dieter Needs to Fly is another in the remarkable body of Werner Herzog's film work, one that is without peer. Having recently rewatched it on DVD, nearly a decade after its initial US release in 1997, it has lost none of its power. I could see its influence […]

'A Generation': Andrzej Wajda Polish Cinema Classic

Sometimes films get reputations way out of proportion with their artistic merit simply because they expound a point of view with which the public and/or the critics agree. Such is the case with the first feature by Polish film legend Andrzej Wajda. Released in 1955, the 87-minute black-and-white Pokolenie / A Generation is not a particularly good film. No, it's not a bad film, either, […]

'Contempt' Movie: Brigitte Bardot & Jean-Luc Godard Collaboration Is Filmmaker's Best

Contempt with Brigitte Bardot. Of the films I've seen so far of French New Wave director Jean-Luc Godard, his best is Le Mépris / Contempt (1963), adapted by Godard from Alberto Moravia's novel Il Disprezzo (published in English as The Ghost at Noon). That statement should not be taken as an acknowledgment of greatness, for although this is his best film, it is not close […]

'Undertow' Movie Review: David Gordon Green

Devon Alan and Jamie Bell feel the pull in 'Undertow.' When does the seep of an artist's talent get to be too much? Is it the first time he 'sells out,' the third time, or when all of the early potential has drained away? This was what I was thinking as I watched David Gordon Green's third effort, Undertow, released in 2004. Oh, it's not […]

'Minnie and Moskowitz' Movie: Lesser-Known John Cassavetes-Gena Rowlands Collaboration

All choice entails risk. Thus, John Cassavetes' artistic choice to structure his films based mostly on improvisation rather than hard scripted dialogue is a decision that can result in great films, like Faces, ok films like Shadows, and bad films like Minnie and Moskowitz (1971), an awkwardly written and poorly acted comedy. Admittedly, the film offers a few brilliant moments that reveal Cassavetes at his […]

'War-Gods of the Deep' Review: Jacques Tourneur Cult Classic

War-Gods of the Deep is one of those films whose title makes no sense, but is right in keeping with the whole tenor of the film itself. Made in 1965, this American International Pictures production the studio's first non-Roger Corman release based on a Edgar Allan Poe's story, and was a part of the Big Four of the horror/sci-fi genre of that era. The three […]

'Taste of Cherry' Review: Ending Nearly Ruins Abbas Kiarostami Drama

There is that old and often neglected nostrum about 'gilding the lily.' I was reminded of this while watching Abbas Kiarostami's acclaimed Ta'm e guilass / Taste of Cherry, co-winner of the Palme d'Or at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival. Even though Taste of Cherry comes close to being a great film for the bulk of its 99 minutes (not the oft-claimed 95 minutes), its […]

'The Mole People': Unfairly Maligned Sci-Fi Horror Mix

Sometimes bad films get reputations they thoroughly deserve, e.g., Plan 9 from Outer Space, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, and Robot Monster. These films are so ineptly staged, directed, written, and acted that they are actually very funny, if not necessarily “good.” Sometimes bad films get reputations they do not deserve – in the sense of being thought of as good or even great films. […]

'The Monolith Monsters: Notable Sci-Fi B Movie

Perhaps it is all because of Grant Williams. Williams was a B-film actor who was best known for his starring role in The Incredible Shrinking Man, a 1957 release that has been generally acknowledged as one of the most literate B sci-fi films of the 1950s. In watching the DVD of his other notable 1957 film, The Monolith Monsters, I was struck by how well […]

'The 7th Voyage of Sinbad': Kerwin Mathews Adventure Classic

By Dan Schneider of Cosmoetica Perhaps I was five or six when I first snuck into one of the cheapo movie theaters off of Myrtle Ave., in Queens, to see The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958). Or perhaps I saw it first on WABC-TV's "The 4:30 Movie," or late at night, on "Chiller Theater" or "Creature Feature." In any case, when I first saw it […]

'The Fearless Vampire Killers': Roman Polanski Classic Horror Movie Spoof

One of the overlooked aspects of most 1960s and 1970s Hammer Studios horror films is that they were quite funny, often unintentionally so. Yes, Christopher Lee had a certain charm, but is it not true that he was also far more grandly silly than scary? Looking back on those films, they certainly do not hold up as well as even the Universal Bela Lugosi takes […]

'Hour of the Wolf': Ingmar Bergman Goes Beyond Tale's Horror Roots

Hour of the Wolf with Max von Sydow. Hour of the Wolf / Vargtimmen, a 1968 film by Ingmar Bergman, proves the nostrum that even lesser work by a great artist surpasses the better work of lesser artists, for Bergman can get more from the prosaic than just about any other director. Hour of the Wolf is comprised of a series of small moments – […]

'The Return of the Secaucus 7': Early & Flawed John Sayles Effort

Early John Sayles' effort: 'The Return of the Secaucus 7' Independent filmmaker John Sayles' 1980 feature film debut, The Return of the Secaucus 7, has the typical feel of the low-budget productions from that era – even those in the horror genre, such as Last House on the Left or The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Indeed, prior to embarking on his directorial career Sayles had […]

'Signs of Life': 'Extraordinary' Werner Herzog Film

No filmmaker's career has been more defined and structured by the musical choices he has made than that of Werner Herzog. This claim is evident from his first full-length feature, Lebenszeichen / Signs of Life (1968), which he made when he was twenty-four – three years after having written the screenplay. (He claims he got the idea for it when he was fifteen or sixteen, […]

'The Bad Sleep Well': Generally Overlooked Akira Kurosawa Corporate Corruption Drama Merits Recognition

The Bad Sleep Well with Toshiro Mifune. Akira Kurosawa's 1960 corporate corruption drama stars the filmmaker's favorite leading man, Toshiro Mifune, who “gets to display the full range of his acting chops” as a white-collar worker bent on revenge. Kurosawa (1910–1998) and Mifune (1920–1997) collaborated on 16 features, most notably Drunken Angel (1948), Rashomon (1950), Seven Samurai (1954), Throne of Blood (1957), The Lower Depths (1957), The Hidden Fortress (1958), Yojimbo (1961), Sanjuro […]

'The Invisible Boy': Robby the Robot in Low-Budget Sci-Fier Predating '2001' & 'The Terminator' Movies

The Invisible Boy. One of the cast members in Fred M. Wilcox's 1956 classic sci-fier Forbidden Planet, Robby the Robot gets the Special Guest Star treatment in the poster for The Invisible Boy – the bot's name is displayed in letters much larger than those for the low-budget sci-fier's human actors, director, writers, and producer. Also of interest, plot elements from The Invisible Boy – e.g., the supercomputer, the […]

'Gojira' vs. 'Godzilla': Which Is Better? Is Japanese Version Superior to the American One?

Gojira with Akihiko Hirata, Momoko Kôchi, and Akira Takarada. Tokyo-born actress Momoko Kôchi (1932–1998) was seen in more than 30 films over the course of four decades. In Ishirô Honda's Gojira, Akira Takarada is Kôchi's love interest, while Akihiko Hirata is the man her father has chosen to become her husband. Rivalries and jealousies aside, they must all work together to defeat the gigantic reptilian […]

'Godzilla, King of the Monsters!' & 1954 'Gojira': Two of the Greatest Monster Movies Ever

Godzilla. Whether in Ishirô Honda's 1954 Japanese original Gojira or in the 1956 U.S. version, Godzilla, King of the Monsters!, the destructive reptilian creature emblematic of the atomic age remains one of cinema's iconic creations. Like Harry Potter, James Bond, and Andy Hardy, Godzilla has been at the center of numerous big-screen sequels – not to mention a not inconsiderable number of remakes, reboots, and […]

'Testament of Orpheus': Jean Cocteau Ends Heavy-Handed 'Orphic Trilogy'

Testament of Orpheus with Jean Cocteau. The filmmaker's “Orphic Trilogy” spanned nearly three decades: The Blood of a Poet (1932), with Enrique Riveros as The Poet; Orpheus (1950), with Roger Blin, in a supporting role, as The Poet; and Testament of Orpheus (1960), with Cocteau himself as the time-traveling Poet. 'Testament of Orpheus': Best 'Orphic Trilogy' entry – but 'nowhere near a good film' The […]

'Orpheus' Film Review: Jean Cocteau & Jean Marais Collaboration

The second film in Jean Cocteau's so-called Orphic Trilogy, Orphée / Orpheus (the truth is, the films in this 'trilogy' do not make up an actual trilogy), deals with the classic Orpheus and Eurydice myth. It is also a better film than its predecessor, Le Sang d'un poète / The Blood of a Poet, in the three-film The Criterion Collection release. Even so, it's by […]

'White Nights' Movie Review: Luchino Visconti Un-Hollywoodian Love Story

'White Nights' with Maria Schell and Marcello Mastroianni. 'White Nights' movie review: Luchino Visconti's 'un-Hollywoodian tale of love' Adapted from Fyodor Dostoevsky's story of the same name, Luchino Visconti's 1957 drama White Nights / Le Notti bianche, winner of that year's Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival, is not quite a great film for it lacks both great and new ideas. Even so, it […]

'The Blood of a Poet': Jean Cocteau

I recently got The Orphic Trilogy of films written and directed by Jean Cocteau: Le Sang d'un poète / The Blood of a Poet (1930), Orphée / Orpheus (1950), and Le Testament d'Orphée / The Testament of Orpheus (1960). I decided to start with the first film, Le Sang d'un poète / The Blood of a Poet, which runs about 55 minutes. I was dubious […]

'Shame' Movie Review: Ingmar Bergman Classic

I should no longer be surprised when critics miss the most obvious things in works of art, because they are human beings, and the vast majority of human beings are lazy by nature. That said, the simplistic notion that Ingmar Bergman's great 1968 drama Skammen / Shame is merely anti-war does a great deal of damage to the reputation of this highly complex and nuanced […]

'White' Movie Review: Julie Delpy Stars in Krzysztof Kieslowski 'Delightful If Flawed Comedy'

Julie Delpy in 'Three Colors: White.' 'White' movie review: Krzysztof Kieslowski's weakest 'Three Color's film is 'exceptional' when compared to Hollywood comedies Krzysztof Kieslowski's middle film in his Polish-French trilogy – Three Colors: Blue, Three Colors: White, and Three Colors: Red – is a black comedy that also happens to be generally considered the weakest of the trio of films. This is true, though given […]

'Blue' Movie (1993): Krzysztof Kieslowski 'Masterpiece'

Juliette Binoche in Three Colors: Blue movie. 'Blue' movie (1993): Krzysztof Kieslowski 'Three Color's drama Krzysztof Kieslowski was one of the more interesting filmmakers of the last quarter century. The centerpiece of his claim to greatness is the film trilogy that he directed and co-wrote with Krzysztof Piesiewicz in the early to mid-1990s: Three Colors: Blue, Three Colors: White, and Three Colors: Red. Representing the […]

'My Best Fiend': Werner Herzog & Unusual Collaborator Klaus Kinski

Werner Herzog's documentary, Klaus Kinski: My Best Fiend / Mein liebster Feind – Klaus Kinski (1999), is yet another in the dazzling array of Herzog documentary – or documentary-like – films. This one follows the director's turbulent friendship and creative partnership with the legendary German actor Klaus Kinski, with Herzog also acting as narrator (in German with English subtitles, or dubbed into English). In the […]

'Mr. Arkadin': Orson Welles' Lesser-Known Effort in All Its Original Glory

The first time I saw Orson Welles' 1955 black-and-white drama Mr. Arkadin was a few years ago, on a cheap 91-minute DVD version put out by LaserLight. It was a film often called Welles' “European Citizen Kane," and had a bizarre introduction by a fey and gloved Tony Curtis. It was a very poor-quality disk, with a scratched and highly white-contrasted print that looked washed out. […]

'Solaris': Andrei Tarkovsky Classic Sci-Fier

First, I saw the 2002 Steven Soderbergh version of Solaris, starring George Clooney. Then I read Stanislaw Lem's novel. And then I watched Andrei Tarkovsky's 1972 169-minute film version of the book, Solaris / Solyaris, winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival that year. Each successive interpretation I've seen of the work is better than the previous one, even though Lem […]

'Scenes from a Marriage' Review: Liv Ullmann in Ingmar Bergman Classic

Leo Tolstoy once opined that all happy families are happy in a few ways, while those that are not suffer in many unique ways. This apothegm was never more well evinced than in filmmaker Ingmar Bergman's five-hour 1973 Swedish telefilm Scener ur ett äktenskap / Scenes from a Marriage, a miniseries that was even more influential in Europe than the American television miniseries Roots, which […]

'The Naked Kiss': Entertaining Samuel Fuller Crime Drama

Maverick U.S. filmmaker Samuel Fuller was both a progressive and a prude, and no film of his better illustrates this schismic personal dichotomy, echoed in his use of high and low techniques in his art, than his 1964 black-and-white film noir melodrama The Naked Kiss. The Naked Kiss is a cult classic whose title derives from a description provided by its lead character – a […]