April 09, 2008
Alexandra (Cinema Guild) The Unforeseen (Cinema Guild) Frownland (Frownland, Inc.) Galina Vishnevskaya, the renowned singer who is now in her eighties and who has hitherto acted principally in opera, plays the leading role in the Russian film Alexandra. Possibly this came about because the previous film by this director was a documentary on Vishnevskaya and her late husband, the cellist and conductor Mstislav Rostropovich. That director is Alexander Sokurov, a man with a heavyweight reputation.
Films Worth Seeing
April 05, 2008
Alexandra. With surprising frankness, this Russian film explores the barbarities of war, especially in Chechnya (unnamed). The picture is much heightened by the performance of a former opera star as a grandmother who visits her soldier-grandson at his army base. (Reviewed 4/9/08) Body of Work. A documentary about an American soldier drastically wounded in Iraq and his life thereafter.
March 12, 2008
Chop Shop (Koch Lorber) Paranoid Park (IFC First Take) Laments about the decline of cinephilia are familiar, and in the main they are just. Little is left of the film frenzy that embroiled college generations through the 1960s. But that is the view from the audience side; there is a different view that contests the decline. Cinephilia is not declining at its roots, because new film-makers of quality continue to appear. The waning of the so-called Film Generation has not affected them.
Fame and Blame
February 27, 2008
The Duchess of Langeais -- IFC Summer Palace -- Palm Who is Jacques Rivette? The question would stump many regular filmgoers, but for those who are intemperately close to film history, the name will chime. Born in 1928, Rivette was a leader of the postwar Nouvelle Vague and is still working.
February 13, 2008
Caramel (Roadside Attractions) Woman on the Beach (New Yorker) The Silence Before Bach (Films 59) HOW SADDENING some films can be, no matter what their subjects are. In the 1950s and 1960s, when Spanish films by Saura and Bardem and others arrived here, their strengths were irresistible, but it was impossible to forget the dark contrast between the films and the country from which they came.
January 30, 2008
Fans of the show "24," or anyone who has followed the recent controversy surrounding its portrayal of torture, may have been understandably surprised by a mid-summer announcement by Fox network executives: The series—whose co-creator and executive producer, Joel Surnow, is a Rick Santorum- supporting, friend-of-Ann-Coulter sort of conservative, and whose hero, Jack Bauer, knows his way around a waterboard—was going green. In fact, it would be the first TV series ever to do so.
At Home and Abroad
January 30, 2008
The SavagesFox Searchlight4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 DaysIFCBeaufortKinoThe first virtue of The Savages is its daring. Daring, in this case, doesn't mean sensationalism: quite the reverse. The Savages dwells on the far side of the spectrum from sensation, past the middle ground of customary drama, in a mode that dares to be undramatic. Steadfastly, empathically, its method is to take us into several lives for a while, then to let us leave enriched. This method, we don't always remember, is a venerable one in film-making (think of Yasujiro Ozu), and The Savages does it honor.
December 31, 2007
Look Liberated Artists Protagonist IFC Billy the Kid Elephant Eye By now it is so common that we almost miss it when it isn't there. When television reports a robbery or a street fight, we wait for the surveillance-camera footage that will intensify the report. We now take it nearly for granted that the world is no longer watched by Big Brother but by Small Camera.
Law and Disorder
December 14, 2007
American Gangster UniversalBefore the Devil Knows You're DeadThinkFilmIn its way, American Gangster pulls its audience up on to the screen along with its characters. This violent picture would never have been made unless the makers thought the audience wanted to be in it. Audiences have always been thrilled by vicarious lives of crime for a couple of hours--those swaggering thugs done by James Cagney and Edward G. Robinson!--but we had an escape hatch for our errant morality: the gangster always crashed at the end, and we could slide back into our orderly, lawnmowing lives.
Law and Disorder
December 10, 2007
American Gangster Universal Before the Devil Knows You're Dead ThinkFilmIn its way, American Gangster pulls its audience up on to the screen along with its characters. This violent picture would never have been made unless the makers thought the audience wanted to be in it. Audiences have always been thrilled by vicarious lives of crime for a couple of hours--those swaggering thugs done by James Cagney and Edward G. Robinson!--but we had an escape hatch for our errant morality: the gangster always crashed at the end, and we could slide back into our orderly, lawnmowing lives.