Starring: James McAvoy, Keira Knightley, Romola Garai, Vanessa Redgrave

Atonement

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In Brief: When Joe Wright’s sophomore effort Atonement hit Cannes, words like “masterpiece” and phrases like “an instant classic” (what does that mean? add water and stir?) came tumbling forth like oranges from a faulty sack. Being something of a skeptic — and always wary of high-toned dramas that smack of Merchant-Ivory or Masterpiece Theatre —…
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Starring: Soran Ebrahim, Avaz Latif, Saddam Hossein Feysal, Hiresh Feysal Rahman

Turtles Can Fly

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In Brief: When Turtles Can Fly (2004) first showed here, 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…
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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 a…
lolispider
Starring: Lon Chaney Jr., Carol Ohmart, Quinn K. Redeker, Beverly Washburn, Jill Banner, Sid Haig

Spider Baby, or the Maddest Story Ever Told

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In Brief: Despite its full title, Spider Baby (1968) probably isn't the maddest story ever told, but it's in the running — at least as schlock exploitation film is concerned. Enjoyably trashy and occasionally downright amateurish, it's the fairly silly story of a house full of folks suffering from some inexplicable form of mental degeneration that turns…
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Starring: Charles Aznavour, Marie Dubois, Nicole Berger, Michèle Mercier, Serge Davri

Shoot the Piano Player

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In Brief: François Truffaut’s Shoot the Piano Player (1960) is one of those celebrated films that I had somehow just never seen till this weekend. Oh, I’d seen clips and knew a little about it — and I’d suspected that the phony gangster-movie opening of Ken Russell’s 1966 TV film on composer Georges Delerue, Don’t…
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Starring: Carole Lombard, Fredric March, Walter Connolly, Charles Winninger, Sig Ruman

Nothing Sacred

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In Brief: William A. Wellman’s very aptly titled Nothing Sacred (1937) begins with a series of titles informing us, “This is New York, skyscraper champion of world, where the slickers and know-it-alls peddle gold bricks to each other, and where truth, crushed to earth, rises again more phony than a glass eye.” That effectively captures the…
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Starring: Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, Cyril Cusack, Michael Hordern, Alan Webb

The Taming of the Shrew

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In Brief: Franco Zeffirelli’s The Taming of the Shrew (1967) wasn’t the first time this Shakespeare play was served up with a famous married couple in the lead roles. No, that honor goes to Sam Taylor’s 1929 version starring Hollywood royalty of that era, Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford. (And whether or not the main title really…
black-christmas-eye
Starring: Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea, Margot Kidder, John Saxon, Andrea Martin

Black Christmas

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In Brief: Merry Christmas from the Thursday Horror Picture Show with Bob Clark’s Black Christmas (yes, the same Bob Clark who made A Christmas Story). What better way to celebrate the season than with the original “slasher” picture? Yes, Black Christmas pretty much started it all — predating Halloween (1978), Friday the 13th (1980) and…
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Starring: Jean-Paul Belmondo, Jean Seberg, Daniel Boulanger, Jean-Pierre Melville

Breathless (A Bout de Souffle)

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In Brief: Breathless marks the start of French New Wave cinema, and regardless of how one feels about Jean-Luc Godard’s later, less accessible works, it would be hard to find a more audacious debut feature. The problem today's audiences have with it is that so much of what was fresh and revolutionary in 1960 has been assimilated…
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Starring: Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Charlotte Henry, Felix Knight, Henry Kleinbach

Babes in Toyland (March of the Wooden Soldiers)

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Babes in Toyland — which generations of children have grown up knowing only by its re-issue title, March of the Wooden Soldiers — is the second of Laurel and Hardy’s excursions into opera or operetta (no, they don’t sing), and it’s by far the most elaborate and most popular. It’s been a Christmas staple for…
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Starring: Solveig Dommartin, William Hurt, Sam Neil, Max von Sydow, Jeanne Moreau

Until the End of the World

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In Brief: Wim Wenders’ Until the End of the World (1991) is both like a Wenders film (check out the soundtrack) and not. The film — at least till it hits the final stretch — is as quirky as anything the filmmaker ever did, but it’s a bit more playful. It’s certainly one of the more…
best-François-Truffaut-films
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…
Potemkin-3
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…
bicycle-thieves
Starring: Lamberto Maggiorani, Enza Staiola, Lianella Carell, Gino Saltamerenda

The Bicycle Thieves

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In Brief: It helps to understand the realities of life in post-War Italy to understand the birth of Italian Neo-Realism — something born as much from economic necessity as an artistic movement. Films like Vittorio De Sica's The Bicycle Thieves (1948) were partly made simply because they were possible in a country where money was…
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Starring: Jeff Morrow, Mara Corday, Morris Ankrum, Louis Merrill, Edgar Barrier, Robert Shayne

The Giant Claw

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In Brief: The Thursday Horror Picture Show is serving Grade-A turkey this week with Fred F. Sears’ deliriously dreadful The Giant Claw. To give some barometer of its quality, consider that it was released in June of 1957, and even though Sears died in November of that same year, in the intervening five months he…
shoot-the-piano-player
Starring: Charles Aznavour, Marie Dubois, Nicole Berger, Michèle Mercier, Serge Davri

Shoot the Piano Player

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In Brief: François Truffaut’s Shoot the Piano Player (1960) is one of those celebrated films that I had somehow just never seen till this weekend. Oh, I’d seen clips and knew a little about it—and I’d suspected that the phony gangster-movie opening of Ken Russell’s 1966 TV film on composer Georges Delerue, Don’t Shoot the Composer, was based on…
songcatcher
Starring: Janet McTeer, Aidan Quinn, Pat Carroll, Jane Adams

Songcatcher

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In Brief: Local interest runs high concerning writer-director Maggie Greenwald’s Songcatcher, owing to the fact that it was filmed around here. For that matter, parts of the film were made on the mountains not more than a few miles from where I’m writing this review. Thankfully, it turns out that Songcatcher is worth the fuss as…
deepredknife
Starring: David Hemmings, Daria Nicolodi, Gabriele Lavia, Macha Méril

Profondo Rosso (Deep Red)

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In Brief: Widely considered — at least by those who consider such things — to be Dario Argento's best film, Deep Red (1975) is perhaps more of a gory (except that people all seem to bleed red paint) giallo than an outright horror film. One thing is certain — it makes more sense (in strictly…
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Starring: Walter Huston, Karen Morley, Franchot Tone, C. Henry Gordon, Arthur Byron

Gabriel Over the White House

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In Brief: Gregory La Cava’s Gabriel Over the White House (1933) isn’t a particularly good movie, but as one of a handful of peculiarly pro-fascist movies floating around from that time, it takes the prize for the most alarming of the lot. Walter Huston stars as a shallow party-man politico (which party is never specified) who…
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Starring: Udo Kier, Joe Dallesandro, Arno Juerging, Maxime McKendry, Milena Vukotic

Blood for Dracula

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In Brief: It's the X-rated classic where Dracula becomes spectacularly unwell whenever he drinks the blood of anyone who's not a virgin (prompting the magnificent outburst, "The blood of these whores is killing me!") — and if that appeals to you (and it should), this movie is right up your alley. It's all about Dracula going…
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Starring: Al Pacino, Jeremy Irons, Joseph Fiennes

The Merchant of Venice

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In Brief: I was surprised to find that this is the first talkie ever made of The Merchant of Venice, though television — mostly the BBC — has offered it up several times. The reason for the lack of actual films of the play is not hard to fathom, since the inherent anti-Semitism of the subject matter…