One and Many
July 01, 2009

Seraphine--Music Box Films 24 City--Cinema Guild Seraphine de Senlis (1864-1942) was a servant and a painter. She worked as a housemaid, a laundress, a butcher's helper, anything she could find. She also painted, in her room at night. Some of her work now hangs in museums. The French director Martin Provost has made a film about her, called Seraphine, which he wrote with Marc Abdelnour. Laurent Brunet is at the camera, and Yolande Moreau is in the title role. Of course the prevailing sensibility was Provost's, but the gifts of all these people have created a film that holds and enfolds.

Films Worth Seeing
June 26, 2009

The Beaches of Agnes. Beaches have been especially dear in the life of Agnes Varda, one of the surviving members of the French New Wave. With beaches as base, she creates an autobiography of film clips, interviews, and diversions that is fascinating, lively, and frequently moving. (Reviewed 7/15/09) Seraphine. A gem. The true story of Seraphine Louis, a French town drudge who was secretly a painter and whose work now hangs in museums. Martin Provost has written and directed with love and comprehension. Yolande Moreau plays Seraphine as if we were privileged to look in on the woman’s life.

June 17, 2009

Summer Hours -- IFC FilmsBurma VJ: Reporting From a Closed Country -- OscilloscopeThe French writer-director Olivier Assayas, experienced and versatile, is now defiant. He certainly knows that one of the most frequently recurrent film themes is social change. Still, he bravely engages this familiar theme in his new film, Summer Hours. Well, we can be glad that he did. It was said of Arturo Toscanini that when he conducted a familiar piece--say, Beethoven's Fifth--he made it a world premiere.

Films Worth Seeing
June 15, 2009

Burma VJ. VJ means video journalist. VJs were amidst the protesting crowds in Rangoon in 2007, filmimg when the police weren’t watching. A stirring and somewhat scary documentary of people, including Buddhist monks, asserting their rights at the risk of their lives. (Reviewed 6/17/09)Seraphine. A beautiful recreation of an extraordinary woman. Seraphine Louis was a town drudge who secretly painted in her room at night. Her work now hangs in museums. Yolande Moreau is splendid as the housemaid-artist. Martin Provost directed wonderfully. (7/1/09)Summer Hours.

June 03, 2009

Jerichow--The Cinema Guild The Window--Film Movement James M. Cain's famous postman not only rings twice, he keeps delivering. Especially on screen. Cain's novel has been filmed twice in Hollywood, as well as in France, Italy, and Greece. Now comes a German film called Jerichow whose credits don't mention Cain's book, but very clearly the writer-director, Christian Petzold, has been sparked by its tone and tale. Petzold's last film, Yella, consisted of veristic bits hung on an incredible story. In Jerichow the verism is even starker, and, in a reversal of Yella, sustains the story.

Stanley Kauffmann on Films: Mystery, History
May 20, 2009

Treeless Mountain Oscilloscope Laboratories Il Divo Music Box Films CHILDREN DEEPEN ONE of the mysteries in film’s being. It is mysterious enough that, since film’s beginning, non-professional adults have given valuable film performances. Still, one can spin social and cultural explanations for this astonishment. But what about the performances by small children, children who were not child stars and who convinced millions? The list is too long to nibble at. How can we explain them? How can we understand the mystery? Some technical facts apply to children as well as adults.

Films Worth Seeing
May 15, 2009

Il Divo. An Italian film about a prime minister--not a documentary--that is dazzlingly made. The director Paolo Sorrentino has transformed the life of Giulio Andreotti, who headed seven governments and is still in the senate, into a fascinating series of contrasts between facility and crime, reticence and flash. (Reviewed 5/20/09) Goodbye Solo. In Winston-Salem a Senegalese cab driver and a taciturn old man become bonded in a strange and moving way. Exquisitely made and genuinely serious, Rahmin Bahrani’s third film does even more to prove him a first-class director.

Iran Exported
May 06, 2009

Goodbye SoloRoadside AttractionsThe Song of SparrowsRegent ReleasingAlong with other distinctions, Goodbye Solo is the first Iranian film made in North Carolina. Ramin Bahrani, the director and co-author, was born in Winston-Salem in 1975 to Iranian parents, grew up there, and after taking a degree at Columbia University went to Iran for three years. There he began his film work. Back in New York, he made Man Push Cart, unseen by me, and Chop Shop, most gratefully seen by me.

Films Worth Seeing
April 17, 2009

Goodbye Solo.  Rahmin Bahrani, American-born son of Iranian parents, made his first two films about New York. But his third, set in North Carolina, is Iranian in mood and manner.  A Senegalese taxi driver and a grizzled American loner are linked by the prospect of the latter’s suicide.  Tender, deep, beautiful.  (5/6/09) Hunger.  A somewhat abstract rendering of  grim facts.  In 1981 Bobby Sands, an IRA activist in a British prison, leads a hunger strike against prison conditions.

Courage and Daring
April 15, 2009

Hunger IFC Films American Swing Magnolia Pictures Steve McQueen is a well-known British artist who is becoming a well-known film-maker. Hunger, his first feature film, is less a promising work than a fulfillment. It has nothing to do with Knut Hamsun's famous novel of the same title (beautifully filmed in 1966).