Forty years ago, under the inspiring editorship of Harold Hayes, Esquire magazine picked out Two-Lane Blacktop in advance as “the film of the year” in 1971. That was the sort of nose for young culture that some editors cultivated in those days. I suppose they thought the film could repeat the sensational business of Easy Rider, offered two years earlier, and it had a similar affectation—that in this America you could live on the road if you kept moving and if you trained your cool sensibility to follow the blacktop and trust your engine.
Stanley Kauffmann on Films: Unusual People
October 12, 2011
Painters have long attracted film-makers for reasons too obvious to explore. Rembrandt, Vermeer, Van Gogh, Michelangelo are only a few who have served their workaday turn on the screen. Now comes a considerable difference, itself in the hands of an eminent artist. Lech Majewski is a Polish film, theater, and opera director recognized widely for his startling and enriching imagination. He is much taken with the paintings of Pieter Bruegel, and his film The Mill and the Cross is his response to two Bruegel gems.
David Thomson on Films: ‘Take Shelter,’ an Arresting Film About How Small Town Ohio Is Cracking Apart
October 12, 2011
Why would you take shelter, and should you regard this title as gentle advice or a sweeping, allegorical imperative? Well, first of all we’re in what I take to be rural southern Ohio where the storm clouds have a way of building up like the slow movements in Mahler. They seem ominous, gun-metal beautiful at first, but don’t trust that they’re under control—least of all that of God, Ohio, or Mahler. Then sometimes a viscous rain falls, like motor oil, one person will say.
On Violence, in Chicago and in Afghanistan
October 12, 2011
The Interrupters Cinema Guild Hell and Back Again Docurama Film Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow Alive Mind Cinema Steve James, writer-director of Hoop Dreams, and Alex Kotlowitz, recognized author on racial problems, have co-produced a documentary about race and violence called The Interrupters. It runs two hours and five minutes. James says that every viewer will have to decide for himself whether the film is too long. This, I’d say, will depend on whether the viewer insists on new information or whether he is impressed by the commitment of the people involved.
In the last week, my attention has been taken up by two American crime films from the 1950s that have appeared in excellent DVD versions: Joseph Losey’s The Prowler (1951), restored and delivered by a combination of benevolent institutions, the Film Noir Foundation, the U.C.L.A. Archive, and the Stanford Theatre in Palo Alto, which means the exceptional patron of so many arts, David W.
TNR Film Classic: ‘The Pride of the Yankees’ (1942)
October 01, 2011
Before seeing "The Pride of the Yankees" you may or may not know that the Yankees referred to are the ones who win the World Series each year. After seeing it you will find that the reference is indirect. Deep down inside it's the baseball story of Lou Gehrig, the silent strong boy, who went from Columbia to the Yankee Stadium to hit home runs. It was at the start of the fabulous Yankees, when the manager was a runt-sized baseball genius named Miller Huggins, and "Murderers' Row" meant Gehrig, Ruth, Coombs and Meusel.
David Thomson on Films: Remembering Margaret Sullavan, Who Would Have Been 100 (or 102) This Year
September 27, 2011
Every now and then, you run into people who have not seen The Shop Around the Corner. These men and women seem normal enough. They speak English, they wear clothes, they comb their hair. They may be walking the dog or looking for a pinot noir at a party, and they say, “What was that film you mentioned?” They’re good-natured about their ignorance, especially when you tell them the film is 71 years old and in black-and-white. There are people who reckon those conditions are beyond their range or pay level, like the famine in East Africa or the bubbling of the permafrost in Siberia.
TNR Film Classic: ‘A Man for all Seasons’ (February 25, 1967)
September 24, 2011
A Man for All Seasons is tasteful and moderately enjoyable; Robert Bolt’s dialogue is crisp, lucid, and well-spoken; the actors are generally efficient. Fred Zinnemann’s direction is placed at the service of Bolt’s material—in the manner of a good, modest stage director who does not attempt more than a faithful, respectful interpretation of the play. It’s pleasant to see a movie made with integrity and sensibility: A Man for All Seasons wasn’t that easy to do and it wasn’t “safe”—though it appears to have turned out well for all concerned. But that’s really just about all I can say for it.
Stanley Kauffmann on Films: Kinds of War
September 23, 2011
Where Soldiers Come From International Film Circuit Point Blank Magnolia Pictures Iron Crows Min-Chul Kim No, it won’t. That is the answer as to whether the flood of documentaries about current wars will lessen. Why should it? Don’t we all frequently wish that film had been invented in time for Troy? Where Soldiers Come From is unique. It is about war, about Afghanistan in particular, but it is more about civilization than about combat.
He is called “Driver” on the wishful but forlorn principle that you only need to be what you do. He works in an auto repair shop in Los Angeles for a man named Shannon (Bryan Cranston), whose heavy limp bespeaks a bad history with the Mob. It is Shannon, acting as an amiable manager, who guides Driver into other jobs: doing stunts for movies; and driving the getaway car on serious robberies.