Check out TNR's new online feature, “At the Movies,” for all of our latest reviews and old classics in one convenient spot (just below “Citizen Cohn” on our blog roll). The New Republic has been reviewing movies for almost as long as there have been movies. It made noise about them before they made sound. For the last 53 years, Stanley Kauffmann has presided over our coverage of film, with all the strengths of judgment and temperament, and all the erudition, for which he is justly celebrated. His devotion to his calling is itself one of The New Republic’s central teachings.
Film-going is a total experience, so, when I went to see Claire Denis’s White Material in San Francisco this week, I had to sit through an advertisement for visiting South Africa and having a marvelous time. I’ve seen the ad before, and it gets increasingly depressing. There is lovely scenery and a complacent couple who can’t wait to get back there to regain the best Thai cooking of their lives and the rapturous experience of seeing elephants come to drink in the evening. Go if you must. I only know that my daughter—a world traveler—says South Africa is the scariest place she’s ever been.
In a critically and commercially disappointing year for the film industry, one of the few highlights has been the reception given to The King’s Speech. The movie has been nominated for just about every existing award, and a bevy of Oscar nominations are forthcoming. The period drama is also on its way to financial success. Like Stephen Frears’s film from 2006, The Queen—which won Helen Mirren an Oscar for her eponymous performance—The King’s Speech is a testament to Americans’ continuing fascination with the British Royal Family.
It is 1940, somewhere in Soviet-occupied Poland. A Pole is being interrogated; he has been beaten. Then a woman is called in, his wife; some torture has degraded her. She informs on her man; he will be sent to a gulag. The horror is clear, but the feeling is everyday and commonplace.
Early on in the Coen Brothers’ True Grit, the 14-year-old Mattie Ross has a negotiation with a cunning stupid merchant in the town where her father has just been killed. It concerns money, horses, legal threat, and language, and it is the surest signal of where this lugubrious but charming picture is headed. The merchant, Colonel Stonehill (played by Dakin Matthews), is devious and calculating, and for a moment you may believe his dainty language is a fair approximation of educated gentility in Fort Smith, Arkansas, in the latter half of the nineteenth century.
Inspector Bellamy IFC Films Nothing Personal Olive Films White Material IFC Films It is almost as if designed. The last film of Claude Chabrol, who died in September, is such an apt example of his major gifts that it is almost as if he had planned a farewell.
Vision: From the Life of Hildegard von Bingen Zeitgeist Films Samson & Delilah Indiepix No director has surpassed Margarethe von Trotta in depth of concern for women on the screen. Others, very many, have made all sorts of good films about women, their social situation and history and beings. But von Trotta has an advantage over most of them: she is an exceptionally fine artist. Very few other films about women come close to the von Trotta quality.
Nuremberg: Its Lesson For Today Schulberg Productions Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould Lorber Films Kings of Pastry First Run Features The American government made a documentary about the Nuremberg trial in 1945 - 1946 that was shown in Germany in 1948. It is only lately being shown in the United States. Reasons for the delay are obscure: one surmise is that relations with the Soviet Union quickly cooled and our government didn’t want to push a film that had the Soviets sitting alongside us in a tribunal.