Starring: Yves Montand, Irene Pappas, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Jacques Perrin, Charles Denner

Z

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In Brief: Costa-Gavras’ Z (1969) was undoubtedly the first overtly political film I ever saw, and I’m sure that at the age of 15, I actually understood very little of it. What I did understand and respond to was the film’s in-your-face attitude — daring to announce its leftist political agenda with a special credit, “Any similarity…
Starring: Lubna Azabal, Mélissa Désormeaux, Maxim Gaudette, Rémy Girard, Abdelghafour Elaaziz

Incendies

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In Brief: Denis Villeneuve’s Incendies is the most intense film I’ve seen all year. It’s also one of the most compelling — and, in its own way, one of the most entertaining. The brilliance of Incendies lies in its fragmented presentation of the story as a mystery. This provides the film with that rarest of qualities —…
Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, Conrad Veidt, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre

Casablanca

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In Brief: Possibly the most beloved of all movies, Michael Curtiz's Casablanca (1942) is a combination of happy accidents, studio professionalism and plain dumb luck that came together to create the most perfect of all Hollywood studio movies, a perfect blend of studio system efficiency that still allowed for personal creativity. It has more quotable…
Starring: Kåre Hedebrant, Lina Leandersson, Per Ragnar, Henrik Dahl, Karin Bergquist

Let the Right One In

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In Brief: What a relief — and what a delight — it is to be able to praise a horror film without a string of qualifiers and excuses! Sure, there’ve been a handful of horror pictures in the past few years that deserved a look, but all required caveats about how this or that or the…
Starring: Lionel Atwill, Fay Wray, Glenda Farrell, Frank McHugh, Allen Vincent, Arthur Edmund Carewe

Mystery of the Wax Museum

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In Brief: Michael Curtiz returned to the horror genre with Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933), which was only natural since the previous year's Doctor X  had been the film that had put the horror genre on the map at Warner Bros. Again, Curtiz was working in two-strip Technicolor, with the same stars — Lionel…
Starring: Léa Seydoux, Adèle Exarchopoulos, Salim Kechiouche, Aurélien Recoing, Catherine Salée

Blue is the Warmest Color

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In Brief: Make no mistake, the four-star rating given to Blue Is the Warmest Color is both guarded and calculated. I can see that this is a film of some merit and that it’s seriously intended. Technically, it is well-made and Léa Seydoux (the girl Owen Wilson ended up with in Midnight in Paris) is very…
Starring: Peter Lorre, Otto Wernicke, Theodor Loos, Ellen Widmann

M

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In Brief: Yes, Fritz Lang’s first sound film, M (1931), has a few awkward moments, in which Lang hasn’t quite mastered the new medium, but this old warhorse of art cinema works more than it doesn’t and still registers as a compelling work by one of the undisputed masters of film. And calling it an old…
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Jason Flemyng, Greta Scacchi, Colm Feore, Jean-Luc Bideau

The Red Violin

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In Brief: The so-called portmanteau film — a collection of stories in a single vessel — is by its very nature a tricky proposition. Even the best of them — Julien Duvivier’s Tales of Manhattan (1942), the multidirector Dead of Night (1945) — rise and fall on the quality of the individual episodes. Duvivier’s film, for…
Starring: Gabriele Ferzetti, Monica Vitti, Lea Massari, Dominique Blanchar

L’Avventura

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In Brief: When this ran in 2007, I wrote: “The four-star rating I’ve afforded Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’Avventura (1960) is born of a desire to approach the film as objectively as possible. Objectively, this is an important film — maybe even close to a great film. The rich, detailed, deep-focus black-and-white images that make up the…
Starring: Moira Shearer, Robert Rounseville, Robert Helpman, Pamela Brown, Leonide Massine

The Tales of Hoffman

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In Brief: This is the odd-film-out in the major works of Michael Powell and Emerich Pressburger — rarely spoken of in the same breath with their standard classics, The Life and Death of Col. Blimp, Stairway to Heaven, Black Narcissus and The Red Shoes, yet clearly part of the same creative impetus behind those films. It’s a…
Starring: Martina Gedeck, Ulrich Mühe, Sebastian Koch, Ulrich Tukur

The Lives of Others

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This is one of those movies I’m supposed to like a lot more than I do. But the fact is that I’m pretty indifferent to this as filmmaking, despite the quality of its screenplay and acting. That isn’t to say it’s a bad movie — just one that, for me, misses greatness. Many people feel…
Starring: Plácido Domingo, Katia Ricciarelli, Justino Díaz, Petra Malakova, Urbano Barberini

Otello

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In Brief: In 1986, in one of their rare attacks of culture, the amazing team of Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus opted to produce and release (through their Canon Films company) Franco Zeffirelli’s film version of Gisuseppe Verdi’s opera Otello, which, of course, is based on Shakespeare’s play. Well, you don’t get much more cultured than…
Starring: Soran Ebrahim, Avaz Latif, Saddam Hossein Feysal, Hiresh Feysal Rahman

Turtles Can Fly

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In Brief:  When first shown here (2004), I wrote: "The first thing you notice about Iranian filmmaker Bahman Ghobadi’s Turtles Can Fly is how much more technically accomplished it is than most films we see from this part of the world. The colors are bright and vivid, the images are sharp and detailed, the compositions…
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Jason Flemyng, Grera Scacchi, Colm Feore, Jean-Luc Bideau

The Red Violin

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In Brief: The so-called portmanteau film — a collection of stories in a single vessel — is by its very nature a tricky proposition. Even the best of them — Julien Duvivier’s Tales of Manhattan (1942), the multidirector Dead of Night (1945) — rises and falls on the quality of the individual episodes. Duvivier’s film, for…
Starring: Marcello Mastroianni, Claudia Cardinale, Anouk Aimee, Barbara Steele

8 1/2

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In Brief: One of the undisputed classics of modern international film, 8 1/2 (its title literally meaning that it was Federico Fellini's eight-and-one-halfth film — seven full features and a couple short segments of omnibus films precede it). It is the movie in which the greatest of all Italian filmmakers moved completely away from traditional realism…
Starring: Nastassja Kinski, Rolf Hoppe, Herbert Gronemeyer, Anja-Christine Preussler, Edda Seippel

Spring Symphony

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In Brief: Reasonably accurate account (with a modicum of subtext that's so slight as to be almost nonexistent) of the early years of composer Robert Schumann (Herbert Groenemeyer) and Clara Wieck (Nasstassja Kinski). Spring Symphony (1983) is the sort of biopic that gives biopics a bad name. It runs no risks and is so intent…
Starring: Marsha Hunt, William Prince, Frank McHugh, Martha O'Driscoll

Carnegie Hall

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In Brief: The Hendersonville Film Society celebrates National Classical Music Month with a September run of classical-music-themed films. This week the society is bringing back Edgar G. Ulmer’s Carnegie Hall (1947), about which Xpress movie critic Ken Hanke wrote a few years ago: “The silly story — one of those pop music vs. classical music tales — is…
Starring: Mathieu Amalric, Emmanuelle Seigner, Marie-Josée Croze, Anne Consigny, Max von Sydow

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

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In Brief: Julian Schnabel’s third film, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2008), continues his apparent fixation with artists who died in their prime. His first films, Basquiat (1996) and Before Night Falls (2000), were about the graffiti artist-turned-neo-expressionist painter Jean Michel Basquiat (dead of a drug overdose at the age of 27) and Cuban poet and…
Starring: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Pearce, Derek Jacobi

The King’s Speech

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In Brief:  An improbable subject becomes a magnificently enjoyable and moving film experience that needs to be seen in director Tom Hooper's The King's Speech (2010), the story of Britain's King George VI and his attempts — with the help of an unorthodox therapist — to overcome his speech impediment to become the wartime voice of his…
Starring: Daniel Auteil, Juliette Binoche, Maurice Benjou, Annie Girardot

Caché

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In Brief: Judging by the reviews I’ve read for Caché, I am supposed to be blown away by its myriad profundities, its mastery of film, its ability to create tension and so on. I’m not. I’m also supposed to have been shocked — shocked — by a scene of brutal daring unlike anything ever encountered in…
Starring: Marlene Dietrich, John Lodge, Sam Jaffe, Louise Dresser

The Scarlet Empress

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In Brief: Josef von Sternberg belongs in the very top ranks of any list of the greatest filmmakers of all time — and nowhere is this more apparent than in his self-described “relentless excursion into style,” The Scarlet Empress. Bearing the improbable credit that the film is “based on a diary of Catherine II” that was…