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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…
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Starring: Ivor Novello, Marie Ault, Arthur Chesney, June Tripp, Malcolm Keen

The Lodger

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In Brief: Fresh from his stint in the German film industry, Alfred Hitchcock gave the British movie world a well-needed shot in the arm with The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1927) starring the immensely popular Ivor Novello. In so doing, he also gave the world its very first movie that feels like…
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Starring: Silvana Mangano, Terence Stamp, Massimo Girotti, Anne Wiazemsky, Andrés José Cruz Soublette

Teorema (Theorem)

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In Brief: While this surreal — and sexually charged — drama is certainly nowhere near the most unsettling thing Pier Paolo Pasolini ever made (that would be 1975's Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom), Teorema is high on the Not for Everyone list. It's less that the film is upsetting (though some will find…
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Starring: Aleksandr Antonov, Vladimir Barsky, Grigori Aleksandrov, Ivan Bobrov

Battleship Potemkin

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In Brief: It wasn't that long ago that Sergei Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin — then known mostly as Potemkin — was in the top five of nearly all lists of the greatest films ever made. While the 1925 Soviet film seems to have been downgraded in recent years, it remains an essential of cinematic literacy, one of…
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Starring: Pupella Maggio, Armando Brancia, Bruno Zanin, Luigi Rossi, Maria Antonietta Beluzzi

Amarcord

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In Brief: If anyone ever asks why Federico Fellini is one of the greats of filmmaking, all that should be necessary is to direct them to his 1973 film, Amarcord. (If that fails, I suppose you might try 8 1/2 (1963), and if that fails, give up trying to reason with them.) Amarcord and 8…
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Starring: Penélope Cruz, Carmen Maura, Lola Dueñas, Blanca Portillo, Yohana Cobo

Volver

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In Brief: World Cinema revisits Pedro Almodóvar's Volver (2006) — perhaps the filmmaker's most accessible and mellow work. It should be noted, however, that mellow is a relative term. The film contains child abuse and no fewer than three murders (understandable murders), but when put up against such Almodóvar fare as Bad Education (2004) or…
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Starring: Philippe Noiret, Marco Leonardi, Salvatore Cascio, Jacques Perrin, Roberta Lena

Cinema Paradiso

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In Brief: Unabashedly sentimental and nostalgic, Giuseppe Tornatore’s Cinema Paradiso (1988) is one of those rare subtitled art-house movies that — at least in its shorter crowd-pleasing version (the one being screened) — managed to enter the broader public consciousness. People who normally say things like, “I don’t go to the movies to read,” have been…
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Starring: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, John Goodman

The Monuments Men

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In Brief: Despite the general run of critical opinion, The Monuments Men (2014) isn’t a bad movie. Had it been signed by, say, Brett Ratner or McG, it would be judged as pretty good. But it’s from George Clooney, and we expect more than “pretty good” out of Clooney (whether or not we should). We also expect…
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Starring: Alan Bates, Geneviève Bujold, Adolfo Celi, Jean-Claude Brialy

King of Hearts

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In Brief: This early cult classic (maybe the first film deserving that accolade) seems a little less of a groundbreaker today, and its soft tone has caused it to be severely downgraded in many quarters, but that doesn’t keep the film from having its charms — nor does it keep modern viewers from being able…
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Starring: William Powell, Carole Lombard, Eugene Pallette, Alice Brady, Gail Patrick, Jean Dixon, Mischa Auer, Alan Dinehart

My Man Godfrey

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In Brief: Gregory La Cava’s My Man Godfrey (1936) is one of the essential “screwball” comedies. It may even be the essential one. From its glossy credits (probably the most striking title design of the decade) onward, it’s a slick, rich-looking production (despite its Depression-era setting) taking place in that movie-world version of New York…
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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…