David Thomson on Films: ‘The Last Command’ (1927)
January 22, 2011
It’s about time for this column to look back for a moment and delve into our library of DVD treasures. The reason is obvious: Most people passionate about film now spend as much time with that library as with new pictures. I’m talking about 1928, a very good year. An odd, sentimental gesture attended the first Oscars—but only those top prizes. The awards were held in the Blossom Room of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel on May 16, 1929, when awards were being delivered for the years 1927-28.
TNR Film Classics: 'National Velvet' (February 5, 1945)
January 21, 2011
National Velvet tells how a twelve-year-old butcher’s daughter, Velvet Brown (Elizabeth Taylor), helped by a vagabond ex-jockey (Mickey Rooney) wins the Grand National steeplechase. It is the best thing to see at the moment, next to another very happy MGM technicolor film, Meet Me in St.
David Thomson on Films: 'Blue Valentine'
January 17, 2011
As the award season builds, Blue Valentine is being promoted by the Weinstein Company as “the most provocative film of the year.” That’s not far-fetched: This is a challenging experience, and a conscientious effort to expose raw lives. But is it a movie or a new way of revealing helplessness? Perhaps the picture’s largest strength and problem is that its two embedded performances--from Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams--leave us realizing their characters may not be suited to either marriage or a great fictional movie.
Stanley Kauffmann on Films: God and Others
January 13, 2011
Hadewijch IFC Films When We Leave Olive Films If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle Film Movement The films of the French director Bruno Dumont have earned him, besides two Cannes Festival prizes, a reputation for brutality. He has often used his manifest talent to burrow into moral darkness. But the new work that he has written and directed, Hadewijch, is a spiritual odyssey—the travails of Céline, a twenty-year-old theology student, in her search for further envelopment in God.
Kauffmann, Thomson, and TNR Classics
January 07, 2011
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.
David Thomson on Films: 'White Material'
January 07, 2011
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.
January 06, 2011
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.
David Thomson on Films: 'The Way Back'
December 28, 2010
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.
David Thomson on Films: 'True Grit'
December 24, 2010
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.