David Thomson on Films: ‘The Arbor’
May 20, 2011
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?
TNR Film Classic: James Cagney (1937)
May 14, 2011
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.
David Thomson on Films: ‘The Beaver’
May 10, 2011
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.
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.
TNR Film Classic: At Your Own Risk (1940)
May 07, 2011
The march of time is putting out a collection of old newsreels, stock shots and many bridging reenactments that runs the length of a feature picture and tells all in the title: The Ramparts We Watch. It is history and also rub-a-dub-dub. There are indications in the early sections that under the corporalship of Mr.
David Thomson on Films: ‘Jane Eyre’
May 06, 2011
Cary Fukunaga’s Jane Eyre opened over a month ago, but it’s staying in theaters and word-of-mouth is building. As well it might. There have been too many film adaptations of the Charlotte Bronte novel (published in 1847), and some of us have wearied of keeping up with them all. So I neglected the picture when it opened, but was stirred into action by my wife, Lucy Gray, who told me it was wonderful. She was right—she usually is.
TNR Film Classic: 'The Bridge on the River Kwai' (1958)
April 22, 2011
For about half the picture, the hero of The Bridge on the River Kwai is a British Colonel (Alec Guiness) whose depth of courage and sense of duty is at once touching, magnificent, and comic. Part of the success of The Bridge is that its courageous hero is shown from all angles, in all kinds of mirrors. He is strong, stubborn, fallible, maniacal, silly, and wise; and in the end he is pathetic, noble, and foolish. It is as the picture progresses that you become increasingly aware of the complexity—the pathos, the foolishness, the nobility—of the Colonel’s actions.
David Thomson on Films: ‘The Conspirator’
April 19, 2011
Once upon a time—in the era of Sidney Lumet’s 12 Angry Men (1957), say—Robert Redford’s The Conspirator could have been the kind of movie that liberal high-school teachers expected their students to see. It’s good for you.
TNR Film Classic: 'A Sea of Grass' (1947)
April 14, 2011
I find my feeling for Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn is a mixture of personal respect and professional regret.
Remembering Sidney Lumet (1924-2011)
April 11, 2011
Prolific American film director Sidney Lumet died late last week at the age of 86. He was nominated for five Oscars and won an honorary award from the Academy in 2005. His first film, directed in 1957, was 12 Angry Men; his last, from 2007, was Before the Devil Knows Your Dead. Over five decades, The New Republic's film critic Stanley Kauffmann reviewed dozens of Lumet's films. Here, we present four of those reviews. Q&A, 1990 The Verdict, 1982 Dog Day Afternoon, 1975 Long Day's Journey Into Night, 1962