Stanley Kauffmann

Being Human
August 12, 2009

QUIET CHAOS IFC FILMS   THE GIRL FROM MONACO MAGNOLIA PICTURES   Nanni Moretti, treasured in Europe, is scarcely known in the United States. This schism usually happens with film people whose work is strapped culturally to one country, but Moretti's writing and directing and acting are not only celebrated in Italy, they have prospered elsewhere. Not here, however, though his strongest concern is human commonality. Sometimes, in a career that began in 1973, he has appeared in films directed by others. This is true of his latest, Quiet Chaos.

Films Worth Seeing
August 08, 2009

  The Girl from Monaco. The "typical" lightweight French sex comedy brought up to date with strands of drama. A lawyer, in Monaco to defend a woman accused of murder, is guarded against thuggery by a man who was once the lover of the lawyer’s amour. Light but not featherweight. (8/12/09) Quiet Chaos. Nanni Moretti, an outstanding figure in Italian film, celebrated almost everywhere but the U.S., plays a man suddenly bereaved of his wife who seeks solace in the being of his ten-year-old daughter. Moretti is an extraordinary actor who affects us deeply by what we know he is not revealing.

July 15, 2009

The Beaches of Agnes--Cinema Guild The Windmill Movie--The Film Desk Human Rights Watch International Film Festival Naturally enough, the New Wave is rolling back. The tide of new French talent that flooded world screens just before and after 1960--bringing Godard, Truffaut, Rohmer, Rivette, Resnais, and Chabrol, among others--has been ebbing for some time. Movingly aware of this, Agnes Varda, one of the earliest if not one of the most eminent members of the group, has looked back at her life in a film. The Beaches of Agnes is autobiography as festival.

Stanley Kauffmann on Films: Mystery, History
May 20, 2009

Treeless Mountain Oscilloscope Laboratories Il Divo Music Box Films CHILDREN DEEPEN ONE of the mysteries in film’s being. It is mysterious enough that, since film’s beginning, non-professional adults have given valuable film performances. Still, one can spin social and cultural explanations for this astonishment. But what about the performances by small children, children who were not child stars and who convinced millions? The list is too long to nibble at. How can we explain them? How can we understand the mystery? Some technical facts apply to children as well as adults.

From 'Album Of My Germany'
March 18, 2009

From “Album of My Germany”   Our German trip was coming to an end. I reserved the last afternoon in Berlin to visit a place I wanted Laura to see. I had seen it in 1967 and had dreamed of it since. It was a Catholic church in an outlying district, Charlottenburg. Maria Regina Martyrum stands near Plotzensee, the prison where many had been executed during the Hitler years and where, in August 1944, the eight German officers found chiefly guilty in the July plot against Hitler were hanged.

Heroes and People
February 18, 2009

Defiance Paramount Of Time and the City Strand Releasing EDWARD ZWICK’S FILM Defiance is based on Nechama Tec’s book of the same title. Tec told a wondrous factual story of World War II, a history so close to incredible that it is awesome. In Belarus in 1941, two young Jewish brothers named Bielski organized a life-saving mission for Jews that, after much hazard and suffering, rescued twelve hundred lives from the Holocaust. The principal means of salvation was the immense forests of the region.

Taking Risks
December 24, 2008

A Christmas Tale -- IFC Films Wendy and Lucy -- Oscilloscope Pictures Every director needs at least some courage, but Arnaud Desplechin has quite a lot. With his new film, A Christmas Tale, he bravely took on a trite form, hoping that he could vitalize it. He succeeds. He also gave the picture a title that risks the corny, apparently sure that it would come to seem ironic. Eventually it even transcends irony. Born in Roubaix, an industrial city in northern France, Desplechin, with coauthor Emmanuel Bourdieu, sets his story there.

Finding Out
November 19, 2008

One Day You'll Understand Kino International Dear Zachary: A Letter to A Son About His Father Oscilloscope Pictures Jeanne Moreau has reigned in French films since 1950, sensual, brainy, wryly dangerous, free. She was a woman whom men sometimes didn't dare to fantasize about, and for some women she figured as an agent of reprisal. All these qualities were heightened by her talent and technique. (Before she entered films, she was schooled in the theater, an ingénue at the Comédie Française.) But time has had its way with Jeanne Moreau, too, and now she appears as a grandmother.

Departure, Arrivals
November 05, 2008

Paul Newman Stranded: I've come from a Plane That Crashed on the Mountains (Zeitgeist Films) Let the Right One In (Magnet Releasing) Three kinds of performers appear in films: actors, stars, and star actors. Some very good actors lack the looks and personality to become stars. Some stars, iconic though they may be, have just enough talent to get by. Then there are the actors who have both talent and charisma.

Triad and Tumult
October 22, 2008

Ballast (Alluvial Film Company) Elite Squad (IFC Films)    Still another extraordinary new American director comes along--the third in just a few months. After Courtney Hunt with Frozen River and Chris Eska with Autumn Evening, here is Lance Hammer with Ballast. Though these three directors have little in common stylistically, all three of their films deal with working-class people. Hammer's film, which he also wrote and edited, is his first feature. Set in the Mississippi Delta, its three principal characters are black, yet the first person we see is white.