Stanley Kauffmann

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.

Matters of Belief
October 08, 2008

Vicky Cristina Barcelona (Metro Goldwyn Mayer and the Weinstein Company) A Secret (Strand Releasing) Two young American women, Vicky and Cristina, go to spend a summer in Barcelona. Dining one night in a restaurant, they see a good-looking man across the room. Soon the man, a Spanish painter fluent in English, comes over to their table, says that he is about to fly to Oviedo to look at a favorite sculpture there, and invites them to come with him. To their own surprise, they accept.

Wealth and Woes
June 11, 2008

Savage Grace (IFC) Sangre de Mi Sangre (IFC) The Battle for Haditha (DreamMachine) Rich people are the center of Savage Grace. This is not only a fact, it is the mode of the film's being. From first moment to last, the film breathes the attar of richesse. The rooms designed by Victor Molero, the costumes by Gabriela Salaverri, the lapping of them by Juanmi Azpiroz's camera--all these confirm that we are leagues above any pleasure-limiting care. This is not a historical film where extravagance is expected: Savage Grace begins in New York in 1946 and continues through a couple of decades.

Stanley Kauffmann on Films: Out of the Past
March 26, 2008

Heartbeat Detector (New Yorker) Love Songs (IFC) Sputnik Mania (IFC)     The French director Nicolas Klotz proves—not for the first time in film history—that a picture may be a bit of a jumble yet fascinating. Klotz's Heartbeat Detector, written by Elisabeth Perceval from a novel by Francois Emmanuel, begins as an up-to-date story about Simon Kessler, a smart young psychologist employed by the Paris branch of a Franco-German company. His job is to judge job applicants and to keep tabs on the mental status of the staff.

Fame and Blame
February 27, 2008

The Duchess of Langeais -- IFC Summer Palace -- Palm Who is Jacques Rivette? The question would stump many regular filmgoers, but for those who are intemperately close to film history, the name will chime. Born in 1928, Rivette was a leader of the postwar Nouvelle Vague and is still working.

February 13, 2008

Caramel (Roadside Attractions) Woman on the Beach (New Yorker) The Silence Before Bach (Films 59) HOW SADDENING some films can be, no matter what their subjects are. In the 1950s and 1960s, when Spanish films by Saura and Bardem and others arrived here, their strengths were irresistible, but it was impossible to forget the dark contrast between the films and the country from which they came.

Stanley Kauffmann on Films: People in Shadows
May 21, 2007

AWAY FROM HERLionsgate FRACTURENew Line WHAT A TREAT it is to watch Sarah Polley’s career flourish. First, her acting. A few months ago she was in The Secret Life of Words,where she created a young woman stilled by gross experience. Now, after directing several shorts, Polley has directed her first feature, Away From Her (in which she does not appear).

Crimes Revisited
April 02, 2007

Sacco and VanzettiFirst Run The Wind That Shakes the BarleyIFC First Take ZodiacParamount On the morning of August 24, 1927, a few weeks before I started high school, I read the headlines in The New York Times announcing the executions of Sacco and Vanzetti. I knew something about their story--newspapers and magazines had been brimming with controversy over it ever since I had been able to read--and my parents and their friends had often discussed it. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the matter, I thought, at least the story is now finished.

Being Watched
February 19, 2007

IN THIS AGE CRAMMED WITH STATISTICS, one tauntingly important item is missing, and always will be. How many people on the face of the earth spend their lives spying—professionally—on other people? The media continually serve up lashings of stuff about secretagents and security personnel. Sometimes it seems that almost half the global population spies on the other half, with a remnant reserved to spy on the spies.

Stanley Kauffmann on Films: Commitments
February 12, 2007

The Situation (Shadow) Mafioso (Rialto) A few months ago, the American documentarian James Longley gave us Iraq in Fragments, which looked under the big news stories to some strands of Iraqi life, less about the war than about living. Now Philip Haas, the American director of such intelligent fiction films as The Music of Chance and Angels and Insects, has made a sort of companion piece to Longley's film, called THE SITUATION. This is the first picture that, fictional though it is, tries to deal with some realities of the Iraq war itself. Familiarly, the first casualty of war is truth: Haas tr