From 'Album Of Marilyn Monroe'
March 18, 2009

From “Album of Marilyn Monroe” The deadline for the Monroe book began to loom over our office, seemingly blocking out the light of day. At last her intermediary said she would see me, without fail, on Wednesday afternoon at two. On Wednesday morning, my agent telephoned to say that she was having lunch with my editor that day, expected an answer about my novel, and would telephone me after lunch. I explained to her that I would be incommunicado with an author of my own. I asked her to telephone my wife and give her the news. I would call home as soon as I could.

Films Worth Seeing
March 13, 2009

Everlasting Moments. The lyric-humanist Swedish director Jan Troell has made another gem, this time chiefly about a working-class wife and mother in 1907 who happens to acquire a camera. Her view of herself and her life alters through this camera in Troell’s exploratory rather than highly dramatic way. (Reviewed 4/1/09)Katyn. Katyn Forest was where 20,000 Polish officers and others were murdered by Soviets in 1940. This film, though it has some murder details, is mostly about the effects on the relatives and friends.

Crime and Passion
March 04, 2009

GomorrahIFC FilmsOur City DreamsDi San Luca FilmsThe title of an Italian film, Gomorrah, is a play on words. The subject is not the biblical sinkhole: it is the Camorra, the local Mafia of Naples, which--according to the film and the book that it is based on--has made Naples an equivalent sinkhole. That book was written by Roberto Saviano, a Neapolitan historian and journalist, and was so ruthlessly candid that it became a huge best-seller in Italy, possibly even a cause for some social action.

Films Worth Seeing
March 02, 2009

Defiance. The forests of Belarus during World War Two help the near-miraculous rescue of 1200 Jews from the Germans. The basic story is true--how two thuggish Polish-Jewish brothers shepherded their flock to safety. The action sequences around this story are sometimes strained, still the film is thrilling. (Reviewed 2/18/09)Katyn. The celebrated Polish director Andrzej Wajda caps his 60-year career with a tremendous film about the massacre of 20,000 Polish officers by Stalin’s orders in 1940.

Heroes and People
February 18, 2009

Defiance Paramount Of Time and the City Strand Releasing EDWARD ZWICK’S FILM Defiance is based on Nechama Tec’s book of the same title. Tec told a wondrous factual story of World War II, a history so close to incredible that it is awesome. In Belarus in 1941, two young Jewish brothers named Bielski organized a life-saving mission for Jews that, after much hazard and suffering, rescued twelve hundred lives from the Holocaust. The principal means of salvation was the immense forests of the region.

Films Worth Seeing
February 16, 2009

Cherry Blossoms. A German couple leave home to visit their grown children (as in Ozu’s Tokyo Story) and discover more than they expected. The husband ends in Japan with his son and an enlightening dancer. The director Doris Dorrie blends cultures movingly and to rewarding purpose. (Reviewed 2/4/09)Defiance. Basically the true story of two Polish Jewish brothers--not particularly noble characters--who during World War Two rescued 1200 Jews from the Germans. Edward Zwick, who directed, has wrapped the facts in cinematic embroidery, but he lets the central truth emerge victorious.

Guiding Spirits
February 04, 2009

Silent Light -- Palisades PicturesCherry Blossoms -- Strand ReleasingYet again, and again impressive, comes a film with a nonprofessional cast. Like such recent pictures as Ballast, The Pool, and August Evening, all of which gloried in film's power to transform sincerity into art, Silent Light presents people who have not been actors but who have committed themselves with their entire beings. But Silent Light is markedly different from comparable films.

December 31, 2008

Adam Resurrected--Bleiberg Entertainment Theater of War--White Buffalo Entertainment Dust--Icarus Films Like some European film-makers, Paul Schrader began his career as a critic. In 1972 he published Transcendental Style in Film, a perceptive study of Ozu, Bresson, and Dreyer. He then proceeded to write and direct some untranscendental films, such as The Yakuza, about Japanese gangsters; Blue Collar, about union workers; and Hardcore, about porn. But grit was not to be his sole metier.

Taking Risks
December 24, 2008

A Christmas Tale -- IFC Films Wendy and Lucy -- Oscilloscope Pictures Every director needs at least some courage, but Arnaud Desplechin has quite a lot. With his new film, A Christmas Tale, he bravely took on a trite form, hoping that he could vitalize it. He succeeds. He also gave the picture a title that risks the corny, apparently sure that it would come to seem ironic. Eventually it even transcends irony. Born in Roubaix, an industrial city in northern France, Desplechin, with coauthor Emmanuel Bourdieu, sets his story there.

Presidents and Others
December 03, 2008

W.--Lionsgate Stages--Lemming Film Oliver Stone is, for me, the most adventurous and exciting American director of his time. Struck by some of our era's soul-chilling events and forces, he has seized them with electrifying art. No other American director has so consistently explored large political and social ravages of the day. This is not a matter of civic duty. Stone's best films are, in complex and helpful ways, discomforts. His new film, W., is about George W. Bush. Among his major films, two have also been on presidential subjects.