Starring: Moira Shearer, Robert Rounseville, Robert Helpman, Pamela Brown, Leonide Massine

The Tales of Hoffman

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Spirited Away

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…
Starring: Peter O'Toole, Katharine Hepburn, Anthony Hopkins, John Castle, Nigel Terry

The Lion in Winter

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…
Starring: Nia Vardolos, Richard Dreyfus, Alexis Georgoulis, Alistair McGowan, Harland Williams

My Life in Ruins

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…
Starring: Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, Andreas Teuber, Ian Marter, Elizabeth O'Donovan

Doctor Faustus

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…
Starring: Anne Alvaro, Jean-pierre Bacri, Brigette Catillon, Alain Chabat, Agnes Jauoi

The Taste of Others

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…
Starring: Spencer Tracy, Robert Ryan, Anne Francis,Walter Brennan, Dean Jagger, Ernest Borgnine, Lee Marvin

Bad Day at Black Rock

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…
Starring: Marcello Mastroianni, Sydne Rome, Hugh Griffith, Roman Polanski

What? (Diary of Forbidden Dreams)

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…
Starring: Toshiro Mifune, Tatsuya Nakadai, Kyoko Kagawa, Tatsuya Mihashi, Isao Kimura

High and Low

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…
Starring: Fred Allen, Oscar Levant, Charles Laughton, Anne Baxter, Marilyn Monroe, Farley Granger

O. Henry’s Full House

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…