A TASTE OF CHERRY (Abbas Kiarostami, 1997)

Iran’s Abbas Kiarostami is one of today’s most highly regarded filmmakers. His most vocal fans include Michelangelo Antonioni and Jean-Luc Godard. His A Taste of Cherry shared the top prize at Cannes with Shohei Imamura’s glorious The Eel. A Taste of Cherry applies to an engrossing instance of life and death cinema’s signature mediation between […]


Jan Němec was all of 28 when he made the singular masterpiece of the Czech New Wave: Diamonds of the Night (Démanty noci)—except for sound effects, a mostly silent film. A staggering work based on co-scenarist Arnost Luštig’s story “Darkness Has No Shadows,” it is about two Czechs on the run during the Second World […]

ORDET (Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1954)

For years, Carl Theodor Dreyer’s Ordet (The Word), from Denmark, reigned as my idea of cinema’s highest attainment. It remains the most powerful film I know of, and it’s currently among my three favorite films. Its source material is the play, written in the 1920s and first produced in 1932, by Kaj Munk, whom the […]

DARWIN’S NIGHTMARE (Hubert Sauper, 2004)

Among the most powerful films on its subject, Darwin’s Nightmare provides an inside-out view of globalization. Hubert Sauper’s documentary, from France, Austria and Belgium, focuses on a fishing community in the “independent” East African nation of Tanzania. This is Mwanza, which depends for its livelihood on Lake Victoria, the origin of the Nile River. The […]

EARTH (Aleksandr Dovzhenko, 1930)

One of the greatest films of all time, Aleksandr Dovzhenko’s lyrical Earth (Zemlya; released here in the States, as Soil, the same year as in the Soviet Union) is one of the quintessential Soviet films. Dovzhenko, cinema’s “poet of the Ukraine,” made this film in response to another (wonderful) film, Sergei Mikhailovich Eisenstein’s The Old […]