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Starring: Alec Guinness, Kay Walsh, Beatrice Campbell, Coco Aslan, Wilfrid Hyde-White, Ernest Thesiger

Last Holiday

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In Brief: Alec Guinness' first star vehicle finds him playing an unassuming salesman of agricultural equipment who is diagnosed with a terminal illness. Emptying his bank account — and decked out in exquisitely tailored secondhand clothes — he heads off to a posh resort hotel to enjoy the "high life" before he dies. To his…
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Starring: Catherine Deneuve, Jean Sorel, Michel Piccoli, Genevieve Page, Pierre Clementi

Belle de Jour

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In Brief: That most playful of surrealists Luis Buñuel had one of his greatest successes with his 1967 essay in erotica Belle de Jour — in part, I suspect, because it is one of his least overtly surreal works (which may make it all the more surreal). But more, it was — and is — promoted…
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Starring: Julianne Moore, Woody Harrelson, Laura Dern, Trevor Morgan, Ellary Potterfield

The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio

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In Brief: One of the more perplexing mysteries of modern studio practices is just why Dreamworks Pictures abandoned The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio, a 2005 release that played on a mere handful of screens to mixed (though often glowing) reviews. It boasted a box-office draw in both star Julianne Moore and its popular literary source…
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Starring: Joseph Cotten, Valli, Orson Welles, Trevor Howard, Bernard Lee, Wilfrid Hyde White

The Third Man

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In Brief: Carol Reed's The Third Man (1949) is  that rarest of movies in that it’s a filmmaker favorite (I’ve yet to meet the director who didn’t treasure it), a film buff’s delight and immediately accessible to the more casual moviegoer all at once. Why? Because it works on so many levels simultaneously and is positively breathless in…
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Starring: Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Grace Kelly, Celeste Holm, Louis Armstrong, John Lund

High Society

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In Brief: No, this musical version of The Philadelphia Story is not a great film by any means. Charles Walters' direction is at best workmanlike, at worst pedestrian. It has the air of canned theater in many scenes, along with that typical 1950s overlit look of most MGM musicals. But it does combine the talents…
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Starring: Karl Malden, James Franciscus, Catherine Spaak, Pier Paolo Capponi

The Cat o’ Nine Tails

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In Brief: An early Dario Argento film (his second), The Cat o' Nine Tails (1971) is more mystery than outright horror — and its PG (originally GP) rating should clue you in on the fact that it doesn't really qualify as a giallo. In fact, it's closer to a German krimi than anything. But that…
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Starring: Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller, Kevin McKidd, Kelly Macdonald

Trainspotting

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In Brief: Danny Boyle’s second feature, Trainspotting (1996), finds the burgeoning filmmaker on slightly more typical ground in terms of thematic content — or what we’ve come to think of as more typical — than was afforded by his debut work, Shallow Grave, even while expanding on his experiments with style. Though Trainspotting’s story of Scottish…
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Starring: René Maria Falconetti, Eugene Silvain, Andre Berley, Maurice Schutz, Michel Simon

The Passion of Joan of Arc

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In Brief: Carl Theodor Dreyer’s silent film about the trial and execution of Joan of Arc is often cited as “one of the best films ever made” — something that too often means you’re about to get cinematic cauliflower (it’s good for you, but you may not much like it). Yet Dreyer’s film remains among the…
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Starring: Jean-Pierre Léaud, Delphine Seyrig, Claude Jade, Michel Lonsdale

Stolen Kisses

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In Brief: The third film in François Truffaut's Antoine Doinel series, Stolen Kisses (1968) is probably the best after the original, which none of the sequels topped or even equaled. It's lightweight (a curiously insubstantial affair considering the political and cultural turmoil surrounding its making) and somewhat rambling, but very appealing and still embracing something…
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Starring: Max von Sydow, Liv Ullmann, Bibi Andersson, Erland Josephson

The Passion of Anna

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In Brief: World Cinema is revisiting this frequently overlooked Ingmar Bergman film. The U.S. title, The Passion of Anna, or The Passion (1969) is misleading, since it’s difficult to conclude that the film is really about Anna’s (Liv Ullmann) passion. Perhaps the American distributor simply thought it sounded sexier. In any case, the film is…
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Starring: David Alpay, Charles Aznavour, Eric Bogosian, Brent Carver, Christopher Plummer

Ararat

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In Brief: To commemorate Armenian Genocide Day, World Cinema is showing Atom Egoyan's much misunderstood Ararat (2002), which deals with the Turkish government's 1915 genocide of its Armenian population. This is heady stuff. It's also heavily layered and told in an unusual manner, presenting the story from the perspective of an Armenian filmmaker and linking…
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Starring: Nia Vardolos, Toni Collette, David Duchovny, Stephen Spinella, Ian Gomez, Debbie Reynolds

Connie and Carla

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In Brief: Yes, it’s My Big Fat Greek Drag Queen — even if Connie and Carla might more appropriately be better dubbed Some Like It Hot Meets Victor/Victoria. No matter how you slice it, though, this is yet another vanity project for Nia Vardolos — aided and abetted by producers Rita Wilson and Tom Hanks (who…
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Starring: Toshiro Mifune, Machiko Kyo, Masayuki Mori, Takashi Shimura, Minoru Chiaki

Rashomon

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In Brief: Though he’d made better movies before this one — and would make better ones after it — Rashomon (1950) is the film that put Akira Kurosawa on the map as a major force in international film. The secret probably lies in the picture’s unusual structure, which not only functions as a hook, but…
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Starring: William Powell, Mary Astor, Eugene Pallette, Ralph Morgan, Robert McWade, Robert Barrat

The Kennel Murder Case

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The 1920s and 30s were the high point of a certain kind of detective fiction — the puzzle plot mystery (often featuring an “impossible” locked room murder) built around a gentleman detective. These gentleman detectives were invariably wealthy, spent their spare time studying crime and indulging in the arts. They were well-dressed, well-spoken and invariably…
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Starring: John Barrymore, Marian Marsh, Donald Crisp, Bramwell Flectcher, Luis Alberni, Carmel Myers

Svengali

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In Brief: One of the most stylish and effective of all early horror talkies, Svengali is a perfect blend of atmosphere, writing and a towering performance by star John Barrymore in one of his two or three best performances. The story, taken from George du Maurier's 1894 novel Trilby, had already been filmed a half-dozen…
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Starring: Boris Karloff, Cedric Hardwicke, Ernest Thesiger, Dorothy Hyson, Anthony Bushell, Ralph Richardson

The Ghoul

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In Brief: Long considered to be a lost film, The Ghoul is back in circulation and not merely the curio you might expect a 1933 British picture to be. It's a full-fledged classic of the horror genre from its richest era. Set in the creepiest old, dark house imaginable, filled with a first-rate cast and directed…
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Starring: Barbara Stanwyck, Van Heflin, Lizabeth Scott, Kirk Douglas, Judith Anderson

The Strange Love of Martha Ivers

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In Brief: An odd film from director Lewis Milestone, The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946) starts off in full-blown gothic-thriller style with a prologue set in 1928 that lasts more than 10 minutes. It’s all shadows and thunder and lightning — and grim Judith Anderson in something akin to her Mrs. Danvers from Rebecca (1940).…
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Starring: Pia Degermark, Thommy Berggren, Lennart Malmer, Cleo Jensen

Elvira Madigan

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In Brief: If you were around in 1967 when it first appeared, you’ll possibly remember that Bo Widerberg’s Elvira Madigan was not only something of a hit (in art-film terms anyway), but that it caused a positive mania for Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21. If the former can be understood, then the latter falls into place,…
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Starring: Bela Lugosi, Madge Bellamy, Robert Frazer

White Zombie

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In Brief: Victor Halperin’s White Zombie is a film outside the realm of normal filmmaking. It was odd in 1932, with reviewers at odds over whether it was some kind of art film or a horror film — and in both cases either loving it or absolutely hating it. Most independent productions of its era are pretty terrible.…
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Starring: Paul Wegener, Albert Steinruck, Lyda Salmonova, Ernst Deutsch, Hans Sturm, Otto Gebühr, Lothar Müthel

The Golem

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In Brief: There’s a certain amount of confusion about The Golem made by Paul Wegener (who also plays the creature) and Carl Boese in Germany in 1920. It is neither Wegener’s 1915 version (considered lost), nor is it a remake of that film. It is its own beast — a story detailing the creation of the Golem by…
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Starring: Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey, Janet Leigh, Angela Lansbury, James Gregory

The Manchurian Candidate

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In Brief: If it weren’t for some tepid and not very believable action scenes with Frank Sinatra, John Frankenheimer’s The Manchurian Candidate (1962) might just be the best political thriller ever made. Even with those reservations, this story about communist brainwashing of Korean War soldiers going hand-in-hand with homegrown U.S. perfidy is heady stuff. It must…