OLIVER TWIST (Roman Polanski, 2005)

An early, inferior work by Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist (1837) has nonetheless touched the popular imagination more than anything else by the Victorian novelist, with the exception, of course, of A Christmas Carol. Everything is relative, and in fact, while not one of the glories of the Dickens œuvre, Oliver Twist is not so god-awful. […]

THE LIFE OF JESUS (Bruno Dumont, 1997)

Exceptionally fine, Bruno Dumont’s La vie de Jésus is about aimless contemporary youth. The film isn’t entirely original; it borrows a bit from Fellini and heavily—thematically, stylistically—from Bresson. (Its rigor lightly relaxed, it could be called ‘Bresson lite.’) However, the film nicely absorbs its borrowings and, despite some boorish anti-racist preachiness, makes a coherent impression. […]


When it was first released 35 years ago, The Garden of the Finzi-Continis was widely considered a masterpiece. The film won nearly thirty major prizes, including Italy’s David di Donatello prize, the Golden Bear at Berlin, and the Oscar. Doubtless some of this exaggerated praise was due to the film’s unusual treatment of the Holocaust, […]

NORTH BY NORTHWEST (Alfred Hitchcock, 1959)

A crowd-pleaser, Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest takes three things from William Shakespeare’s Hamlet: its title—“I am but mad north-northwest,” says Hamlet, “When the wind is southerly, I know a hawk from a handsaw”; its feigning of madness, following Hamlet’s doing this, to which the lines just quoted refer—for instance, the film’s crazily reversed geographic […]

THE CONSTANT NYMPH (Edmund Goulding, 1943)

The third film version of London-born Margaret Kennedy’s novel The Constant Nymph, by way of a stage adaptation by Kennedy and Basil Dean, gave Joan Fontaine perhaps her most celebrated role. She herself has called it her favorite. Ebullient, happy, precocious, and passionately in love with struggling composer Lewis Dodd, 14-year-old orphan Tessa Sanger is […]