A FREE SOUL (Clarence Brown, 1931)

Although it was a huge financial success that assisted Clark Gable’s rise to stardom (and no wonder, given the riveting nature of his virile, lowlife performance), and although its director, Clarence Brown, and star, Norma Shearer, were Oscar-nominated, and Lionel Barrymore in fact won the best actor Oscar, A Free Soul is a perfectly dreadful […]

NOWHERE IN AFRICA (Caroline Link, 2001)

Nowhere in Africa (Nirgendwo in Afrika), which won an Oscar as the best foreign-language film of 2002, portrays the actual experiences of a Jewish family that fled Germany in 1938, after Kristallnacht, and settled in Kenya. It’s an attractive accomplishment. Its contribution to cinema touching on the Holocaust is, however, negligible. Kristallnacht was an officially […]

SLIM (Ray Enright, 1937)

A few years prior to Joris Ivens’s stunning Power and the Land (1940), a documentary about New Deal rural electrification, Warner Bros. released Slim, written by William Wister Haines from his 1934 novel, about two power linemen, seasoned Red and his surrogate son, orphaned farm boy Slim—itinerants, moving from construction site to construction site. A […]

PARADISE NOW (Hany Abu-Assad, 2005)

A cynical attempt to put a human face on expedient, remorseless killing, Hany Abu-Assad’s Paradise Now is a monstrous mirage in the desert, and a lame piece of work by any standard. Two Palestinians from Nablus, auto mechanics in their twenties, embark on a murder-suicide plot hatched by higher-ups in the unnamed terrorist organization to […]

TWENTYNINE PALMS (Bruno Dumont, 2003)

French filmmaker Bruno Dumont’s unhyphenated Twentynine Palms has attracted rude controversy. (The Lynchian title clues us into the influence of David Lynch’s phenomenal 1997 Lost Highway.) I have already written about Dumont’s first two films, The Life of Jesus (1997) and Humanity (1999). The former won the Prix Jean Vigo, the International Jury Award at […]