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).

April 01, 2009

Everlasting MomentsIFC films12Sony Pictures ClassicsThe best films I know by the greatly gifted Jan Troell, who is Swedish, are set in the Scandinavian past. Here's Your Life takes place in Sweden during World War I; The Emigrants and The New Land form a diptych about nineteenth-century Swedish immigrants; Hamsun is of course about the Norwegian writer who died in 1952. Merely to mention those films is to wish that every viewer knew them.Now, after some years of absence--at least from the United States--here is Troell again with his latest visit to the past.

Deaths and Lives
March 18, 2009

Katyn Koch-Lorber Films Tokyo! Liberation Entertainment The Polish director Andrzej Wajda, who has had a sixty-year career, crowns it with a consummate film. Katyn seems to be the work that he has been moving toward all of his busy life. Katyn Forest is the place, or the main place, where more than twenty thousand Poles were massacred in 1940. Most of them were army officers, some of them were intelligentsia--professors, lawyers, doctors, scientists. Wajda's father was one of the officers. Katyn is thus something other than just one more film for Wajda.

From 'Album Of My Germany'
March 18, 2009

From “Album of My Germany”   Our German trip was coming to an end. I reserved the last afternoon in Berlin to visit a place I wanted Laura to see. I had seen it in 1967 and had dreamed of it since. It was a Catholic church in an outlying district, Charlottenburg. Maria Regina Martyrum stands near Plotzensee, the prison where many had been executed during the Hitler years and where, in August 1944, the eight German officers found chiefly guilty in the July plot against Hitler were hanged.

From 'Album Of A Theater Critic'
March 18, 2009

From “Album of a Theater Critic” One of the jobs I have had in my life was the post of theater critic of The New York Times, where I was for eight months in 1966. It seems now like merely one of the jobs. When I went there, it seemed final. Remembrance begins with the vague figure of a man on a leathery sofa, offering me the position. When I accepted, he welcomed me to The Times for the rest of my life. It was only the second time, after my marriage twenty-three years before, that anyone had welcomed me to anything for life.

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.