The Night of the Hunter – 1955 Laughton

The Night of the Hunter is much more than just the chance for Robert Mitchum to sink his teeth into the Harry Powell character- one of the all-time great screen villains. It has been described as one of the great American Gothic films-- Charles Laughton described it himself as a “nightmarish sort of Mother Goose tale”- and upon revisit I was surprised at how musical it was, there are four songs in the first 18-minutes, and Mitchum’s marvelous baritone often sings a few bars of “Leaning” …. haunting. The film opens with Lillian Gish telling a story to some

The Night of the Hunter – 1955 Laughton2021-07-31T13:02:24+00:00

The Painted Bird – 2019 Marhoul

The entire process of making The Painted Bird took a decade for Czech director Václav Marhoul. In all the best ways, it shows. Despite the longer running time it feels like every frame is thought out. It is a meticulously curated, breathtakingly shot, sorrow epic. Marhoul and cinematographer Vladimír Smutný shot this on 35mm black and white at the super-wide 2.39 : 1 aspect ratio. The story of the boy Joska (Petr Kotlár) plays out over 169-minutes and nine chapters (one for each of the main people he encounters in his journey). Some of them are portrayed by recognizable

The Painted Bird – 2019 Marhoul2021-06-30T21:24:41+00:00

Merrill’s Marauders – 1962 Fuller

Like 1955’s House of Bamboo this feels like a bigger budget for Sam Fuller. It is shot in color, on location (or at least close- shot in the Philippines). This could almost pass for a John Sturges film in some ways in 1962 with the big bold credits. Set in Burma and parts of India, but the film suffers from a weaker cast. It seems like everyone in 1962 was busy shooting The Longest Day. That is too bad as the film probably needed a star or stronger group of actors. Jeff Chandler (this is his last film, tragically

Merrill’s Marauders – 1962 Fuller2021-07-29T13:33:33+00:00

The Tree of Life – 2011 Malick

  Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life makes otherwise beautiful films, seem unbeautiful by comparison. The Tree of Life opens with Sean Penn’s character Jack (character names are meaningless here and hardly, if ever, referenced – so I will be using the actor’s name here for the most part) praying/talking to his brother. The angelic Jessica Chastain (2011 was her big coming out party- Jeff Nichols’ Take Shelter is the same year) takes the reins of the voice-over (before passing it to others) early, as, through her, Malick explains the duality that he has meditating on his entire five

The Tree of Life – 2011 Malick2021-06-26T18:20:37+00:00

Corpus Christi – 2019 Komasa

  Corpus Christi was inspired by real events. Bartosz Bielenia plays Daniel, a juvenile prisoner graduate out on parole. Through part-lie, part-happenstance (he really was just tired of being judged and made a joke to a cute girl about being a priest) he becomes the priest (and an influential figure) of this small town. Director Jan Komasa shows complete control behind the camera. Komasa is dedicated to the color green in the mise-en-scene throughout the film. Green is prevalent in the church scenes, details as small as a sweater or a cell phone case. The most noticeable (and beautiful) use

Corpus Christi – 2019 Komasa2021-07-27T13:29:18+00:00

Chungking Express – 1994 Kar-Wai Wong

Chungking Express stands as one of the finest works of cinema in the 1990s. It is WKW’s greatest work to date in 1994 (it would take one of the greatest films of all time, In the Mood For Love, to outdo it a few years later). Unquestionably, it belongs in discussion with Goodfellas, Breaking the Waves, Pulp Fiction, Boogie Nights and a few others. the film was shot in just 23 days, apparently while WKW was on break from shooting Ashes in Time (also 1994)—which is the bigger budget, A-film, epic. It begins with the voiceover of Takeshi Kaneshiro

Chungking Express – 1994 Kar-Wai Wong2021-08-11T18:13:44+00:00


best film:  Once Upon a Time in America from Sergio Leone. This is both Leone’s final film (what a magnificent swan song) and first film in thirteen (13) years (1971’s Duck, You Sucker!). It is hauntingly beautiful in one scene-- and then crass and crude in the next resulting in a spectacular contrast (1900 by fellow Italian Bertolucci is similar). It is a gangster epic but colliding with the violence and sadism are lyrical passages full of atmospheric indulgences. This masterpiece is sentimental and dense. Leone would die in 1989 at age 60. masterful twin shots from Leone's


The Tin Star – 1957 Anthony Mann

It would take a closer look at Winchester 73’ and The Naked Spur especially, but The Tin Star may be Anthony Mann’s greatest work. For Mann, his resume has always been about the accumulation of the work (he made some fantastic noirs as well) more than the standing of one (or any) masterpieces. In 1957 this is Mann in the same year as Men in War, after his collaborations with Jimmy Stewart in the early and mid-1950s. For Fonda (still just two years removed from his big comeback in 1955—he spent 1948-1955 doing theater) this is the same year

The Tin Star – 1957 Anthony Mann2021-07-25T16:52:39+00:00

Xala – 1975 Sembene

This is Ousmane Sembene’s (from Senegal- he’s sort of the father of African cinema) fourth feature. The title translates to mean “impotence” and stars Thierno Leve as the corrupt businessman El Hadji Aboucader Beye. He and the other members of the chamber of commerce have taken over from their white oppressors (“our independence is complete”) but they are nearly as crooked and one of the white stooges sort of hangs around the new President all the time perhaps serving as some sort of puppet master. Starts with a voice-over that trails off… Semebene also turns on the water for

Xala – 1975 Sembene2021-07-24T12:35:56+00:00

The New World – 2005 Malick

  The New World is still only Malick’s fourth film to date in 2005 even if it is a whopping thirty-two (32) years since his debut Badlands. The themes and aesthetics are the same. Though perhaps not quite as dogmatically rigid as Days of Heaven with the natural lighting and magic hour photography- The New World (complete with Emmanuel Lubezki on board as director of photography) would measure up here with just about any other film ever shot. The exterior location shooting (largely in Virginia, but certainly in England as well as the story dictates) is as much

The New World – 2005 Malick2021-06-19T13:13:42+00:00

Amour – 2012 Haneke

Michael Haneke’s Amour is his first film after 2009’s unbridled masterpiece The White Ribbon. Though the subject is severe (Georges, played by Jean-Louis Trintignant, cares for his long-time wife Anne, played by Emmanuelle Riva, as her health rapidly declines), it is, in many ways, his most plainly told, warm, and accessible film to date. The warmth I allude to comes from the title, and genuine love between Georges and Anne. These are two masterfully written and acted characters. The film is frosty (Haneke’s signature) in other ways (Haneke does not want your pity or sympathy), but that bond these

Amour – 2012 Haneke2021-06-21T21:27:16+00:00


best film:  Nostalgia from Andrei Tarkovsky The narrative isn’t easy—it’s up there with Mirror for being his most opaque Uncontestably stunning camera movements and achievements in décor and mise-en-scene that interrupt quiet and stillness (usually with water running somewhere and a German Shepard in the mix) A magnificent cinematic painting of an ending—truly one of cinema’s great images to close a film For Tarkovsky it is the first of two collaborations with longtime member of the Bergman trope of actors- Erland Jospehson Open in mist and fog—lovely opening shot. The car moves out of frame and then back in and

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