Film

Stanley Kauffmann is on temporary leave. This review was written by David Thomson. The Tree of LifeFox Searchlight The Greatest virtue of Terrence Malick’s new film may be the controversy attending it. Whatever we think of The Tree of Life as a show or a work of art, there are going to be defenders and doubters driven to join a fierce debate that turns on these questions: “Very well, in 2011, with the movies on life support, what should an ambitious American motion picture look and feel like? What should it do to us? And what do we require of this strange medium?

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You feel it’s a story you’ve heard before, but that’s often the way in Los Angeles where there are more scripts than cars on the street. This happened at a cottage on Benedict Canyon, one of those roads that wind down from the crest of Mulholland Drive to Sunset Boulevard. The cottage was tucked into the hillside, overgrown with ivy, shrubberies, and bad karma. It looked like the forsaken or forgotten house in a fairy story. Over a period of time, a neighbor noticed that its delivery box was crammed with more and more junk mail. So she decided to break into the house.

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Opening in May and reaching out into the early summer, Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris is an artful and shameless encouragement of going back to Paris. I suppose that’s better than artless and shameful, but, from a director who is aged 75 now, wouldn’t it be nice to feel some age and regret, to say nothing of this being the last time he’ll see Paris with the euro stronger than a two-day old croissant?

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The success of Mickey Mouse is so great that it overshadows not only the competitors of Walt Disney in the field of animated comics, but Disney’s own more interesting work, the “Silly Symphonies.” Mickey Mouse is a movie comic of the first order, but I do not think its popularity depends entirely on its artistic merit; it has some of the element of a fad, where it joins the kewpie and the Teddy Bear, and I think because Mickey Mouse is a character, Disney finds himself forced occasionally to endow him with a verbal wit and to give him too much to say, which is against the spirit of the animat

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The other day, I was talking to another film critic about the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. This was in the dawn before the fourth film, On Stranger Tides, had opened. My friend said he had seen the three previous films, but he couldn’t recall a single scene or incident from them. “And yet, when we see the fourth,” I suggested, “everything will seem entirely predictable and familiar from the past.” Oblivion without surprise: I suppose that’s a definition of both the experience of Alzheimer’s and our relationship with that saucy (if not over-sauced) Jack Sparrow.

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Masculine Feminine is that rare movie achievement: a work of grace and beauty in a contemporary setting. Godard has liberated his feeling for modem youth from the American gangster-movie framework which limited his expressiveness and his relevance to the non-movie centered world. He has taken up the strands of what was most original in his best films—the life of the uncomprehending heroine, the blank-eyed career-happy little opportunist-betrayer from Breathless, and the hully-gully, the dance of sexual isolation, from Band of Outsiders.

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What do “documentary” and “newsreel” hope to mean in this benighted age of the Internet, when information threatens to overwhelm intelligence? Though the genre is still hard to fund and difficult to make, there is no doubt but that, in the last 20 years, more documentaries have been getting limited theatrical release. So an orthodox complacency reigns that this is “a good thing.” But is the age of Michael Moore, Ken Burns, Werner Herzog, Frederick Wiseman, and movies like Charles Ferguson’s Inside Job really useful and critical of how we are being run?

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It was just four years ago, when I hadn’t been going to movies very much, that I stopped around to see Footlight Parade and made the happy discovery of James Cagney. He had been known to almost everybody else before that in heavier roles (Public Enemy, for instance), and before he was well known at all he had been doing bits in pictures. But in this one he happened to be cast as the original Cagney, the hoofer and general vaudeville knockabout.

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There are things wrong with The Beaver, starting with the gamble of giving that title to a Mel Gibson picture in the moment of his lowest public esteem. The considerable courage in making his character a profound depressive is not adequately explained—in life, depressives are often suffering because they don’t understand their problem, but, in drama, it’s hard to offer just a numb stare to such questions. We expect explanation, where depression sees only chaos. In addition, as this story trails away it tries to slip a facile feel-good disguise over its persuasive claim that life is shit.

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She drowned in her own swimming pool in the south of France, aged 66. Marie-France Pisier had an immense, composed beauty, with a marble air of absolute assurance. In her brow and her gaze, serenity seemed on the point of becoming a mask. But she was made for drama, and even melodrama. Though she had the look of a Parisian socialite, so much about her was unexpected: She was born in Dalat, in Indo-China, the daughter of a French colonial governor. In fact, she only came to live in France at the age of twelve.

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