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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…
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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…
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Starring: (voices) Daveigh Chase, Suzanne Pleshette, Jason Marsden, Susan Egan, David Ogden Stiers

Spirited Away

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In Brief: I go back and forth between Spirited Away (2001) and Howl’s Moving Castle (2004) as to which is my favorite Hayao Miyazaki film. At the moment, I’m leaning toward Spirited Away — perhaps because I just saw it. The film’s story line is fairly complex, especially when you figure that it’s mostly there to hang the…
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Starring: Peter O'Toole, Katharine Hepburn, Anthony Hopkins, John Castle, Nigel Terry

The Lion in Winter

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In Brief: The Lion in Winter may not be a great movie, but as an historical romp that affords the chance of seeing two champion scene-stealers — Peter O'Toole and Katharine Hepburn — go at each other, it's undeniably entertaining. This tale of three sons and their strong-willed mother attempting to force Henry II into…
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Starring: Nia Vardolos, Richard Dreyfus, Alexis Georgoulis, Alistair McGowan, Harland Williams

My Life in Ruins

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In Brief: After Connie and Carla (2004) failed to duplicate the freakish $244 million success of My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002) — by about $236 million — Nia Vardolos more or less withdrew from the scene, only to return with My Life in Ruins (2009). Apparently, she thought it was closer in tone to…
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Starring: Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, Andreas Teuber, Ian Marter, Elizabeth O'Donovan

Doctor Faustus

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In Brief: When it was first released in 1967, Richard Burton’s film version of Marlowe’s The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus was pretty soundly trounced by the critics. And while from today’s perspective it’s not hard to see why, it is hard to understand how they didn’t at least recognize they were in the presence of…
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Starring: Anne Alvaro, Jean-pierre Bacri, Brigette Catillon, Alain Chabat, Agnes Jauoi

The Taste of Others

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In Brief: Writer-actress Agnes Jaoui’s directorial debut is a deliciously funny and insightful comedy about people’s varied tastes and perceptions, especially perceptions of other people. There’s scarcely a false note in the film, which is impeccably photographed and directed in an unusual (for an essentially intimate film) yet intelligent use of wide-screen. The Taste of Others is…
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Starring: Spencer Tracy, Robert Ryan, Anne Francis,Walter Brennan, Dean Jagger, Ernest Borgnine, Lee Marvin

Bad Day at Black Rock

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In Brief: Clocking in at a tight 81 minutes, John Sturges' Bad Day at Black Rock (1954) is everything you don't expect from a John Sturges movie. It's taut, tense, and it doesn't dawdle. The film is an expression of the increasingly leftist slant that MGM had taken after Dore Schary had managed to oust…
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Starring: Marcello Mastroianni, Sydne Rome, Hugh Griffith, Roman Polanski

What? (Diary of Forbidden Dreams)

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In Brief: Roman Polanski's little-seen — and much-maligned — 1972 film, What?, is undeniably one of the director's strangest works. In essence, it's a variation on Alice in Wonderland — except played out in surrealistic terms as a sex comedy. It's no wonder that no one seemed to know what to do with it or how…
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Starring: Toshiro Mifune, Tatsuya Nakadai, Kyoko Kagawa, Tatsuya Mihashi, Isao Kimura

High and Low

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In Brief: For his 1963 suspense film High and Low, Akira Kurosawa seems to have been actually trying to draw the wrath of those who find his work too “Western” by choosing the Ed McBain novel King’s Ransom for his source material. What could possibly be more Western — indeed, more downright American — than…
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Starring: Fred Allen, Oscar Levant, Charles Laughton, Anne Baxter, Marilyn Monroe, Farley Granger

O. Henry’s Full House

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In Brief: For O. Henry’s Full House (1952), 20th Century Fox brought in all the star power it could muster (mostly from the studio’s roster of contract artists), five name directors and the literary clout of no less than John Steinbeck to introduce the five episodes that make up the film. In doing so, the studio…
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Starring: Chishû Ryû, Shima Iwashita, Keiji Sada, Mariko Okada, Teruo Yoshida

An Autumn Afternoon

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In Brief: It has been said that Yasujirô Ozu’s films are all the same, and while that’s a thematically valid point, it’s not technically true. Nowhere is this more obvious than in his final film, An Autumn Afternoon (1962), which is essentially a reworking of his 1949 film Late Spring. They have similar plots, the same star…
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Starring: Victor Sjöström, Ingrid Thulin, Bibi Anderson, Gunnar Björnstrand, Jullan Kindahl

Wild Strawberries

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In Brief: Ingmar Bergman was just 40 when he made Wild Strawberries, but he shows much of himself in the character of 78-year-old Isak Borg (Victor Sjöström). The very fact that he cast filmmaker Sjöström — a pioneer in Swedish film who had an impressive career in Hollywood silent film as Victor Seastrom — is…
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Starring: Paul Birch, Beverly Garland, Jonathan Haze / Richard Garland, Pamela Duncan, Russell Johnson

Not of This Earth / Attack of the Crab Monsters

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In Brief: In 1957, this pair of Roger Corman cheapies played on a double bill and was advertised as a “Terrorama! Double Horror Sensation!” As with most sci-fi horror pictures of its era, the ad campaign smacks of wishful thinking. Yet there’s no denying that Not of This Earth (a premise Corman liked so much that…
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Starring: Pascal Greggory, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Charles Berling, Jean-Louis Trintignant

Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train

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In Brief: My entire familiarity with Patrice Chéreau prior to seeing Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train (1998) rested on seeing the video presentation of his famous (or infamous, depending on whom you ask) 1976 staging of Richard Wagner’s Ring cycle at Bayreuth. In terms of his talents as a filmmaker this told…
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Starring: (Voices) Chiara Mastroianni, Catherine Deneuve, Danielle Darrieux, Simon Abkarian, Gabrielle Lopes Benites

Persepolis

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In Brief: The very unusual and surprisingly powerful Oscar-nominated animated biographical film about the extraordinary — and yet perfectly relatable — life of an Iranian girl. Though playful in tone, it's a narrative that goes much deeper than one might expect. It's a film that should be seen — and one that benefits from a second…
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Starring: Ron Moody, Frank Langella, Dom DeLuise, Andreas Voutsinas, Diana Coupland

The Twelve Chairs

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In Brief: The Twelve Chairs — based on a 1928 Russian novel — had seen service quite a few times when Mel Brooks made his version of it in 1970, the most famous being the 1945 Fred Allen film It’s in the Bag. Oddly, the Brooks version is a lot tamer than the Fred Allen version…
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Starring: Jacqueline Bisset, Valentina Cortese, Dani, Alexandra Stewart, Jean-Pierre Aumont, François Truffaut

Day for Night

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In Brief: François Truffaut’s Day for Night (1973) is not only a great movie about movies, but it’s fascinating as an example of how international cinema truly is. By this I mean that while we think of foreign film as a separate world, Day for Night is clearly the kind of movie that could only have…
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Starring: Cate Blanchett, Geoffrey Rush, Clive Owen, Abbie Cornish, Samantha Morton

Elizabeth

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In Brief: Fie on those who have trashed this entertainingly overheated historical conceit! Yes, it’s completely indefensible as history. So what else is new? Anyone going to a movie like this expecting historical accuracy is in the same unseaworthy vessel as the student who watches James Whale’s Frankenstein (1931) and uses it to turn in a…
Starring: Sergei Dontsov, Maria Kuznetsova, Leonid Mozgovoy, David Giorgobiani

Russian Ark

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In Brief: Alexander Sokurov’s Russian Ark accomplishes the not inconsiderable feat of being both fascinating and tedious at the same time. Conceptually, the film is brilliant. Technically, it’s a marvel. Dramatically, it’s about as much fun as an evening with an insurance salesman. That said, Russian Ark boasts enough striking imagery — some of it positively haunting…
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Starring: Angela Lansbury, Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor, Kim Novak, Tony Curtis, Edward Fox

The Mirror Crack’d

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In Brief: A diminished budget — and other things — conspire against this attempt at a big-screen Miss Marple movie to accompany successful Hercule Poirot films. It’s not actually bad, it’s just not all that hot. The magnificently catty duels of the divas — Liz Taylor and Kim Novak — are certainly fun, but the…