Ip5 (Jean-Jacques Beineix, 1992)

Perhaps the most exhilarating entertainment of the 1980s is the fabulous Diva (1982), by Jean-Jacques Beineix, a mere thirty-three at the time. This is the one where the kid on his moped, a letter carrier who has stumbled into a dangerous intrigue involving drugs and murder, speeds for his life while being chased throughout the […]

RAIN MAN (Barry Levinson, 1988)

Barry Levinson’s Rain Man belongs to a genre of movies I love: the “road picture.” In these films, partly derived from medieval literature (such as Geoffrey Chaucer’s unfinished The Canterbury Tales, from the late fourteenth century), one or more characters journey, by foot or by vehicle, through a physical landscape that acts as correlative to […]

GIGLI (Martin Brest, 2003)

Sure, Gigli (pronounced so that it rhymes with really) is bad; but as bad as writer-director Martin Brest’s earlier Scent of a Woman (1992) or Meet Joe Black (1998)? No way.      Indeed, one of the most disparaged Hollywood entertainments of all time is pretty entertaining. The ridiculous plot about the kidnapping of a mentally challenged […]

LA HAINE (Mathieu Kassovitz, 1995)

La haine (Hate), which brought Mathieu Kassovitz, in his twenties, the directorial prize at Cannes, centers on three friends living in a Parisian housing project. A Jew, an Arab and a black African, the youths represent groups that a culturally self-involved society prefers to keep at its outermost fringe. They are “kept” there in rather […]

THE SLEEPING TIGER (Joseph Losey, 1954)

In every woman there’s a sleeping tiger. What happens when it is aroused?      With this lurid promotion thus began blacklisted Joseph Losey’s excellent British career, in this instance, to fool its way into distribution back home, under the pseudonym Victor Hanbury. (Blacklisted scenarists Harold Buchman and Carl Foreman wrote the script under the pseudonym Derek […]

THE LIVES OF OTHERS (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, 2006)

Early 1980s; unawares, the German Democratic Republic is close to its end. Playwright Georg Dreyman is under surveillance; fastidious, by-the-book Stasi member Wiesler (Ulrich Mühe, in a beautifully controlled performance) becomes a captivated eavesdropper, as though Dreyman’s private life were another one of Dreyman’s plays. By degrees Weisler relaxes into Dreyman’s and his own humanity, […]

ARMY OF THE SHADOWS (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1969)

Jean-Pierre Melville, born Grumbach, was a member of the Resistance during the Occupation of France. Three wonderful films of his address this period during the Second World War: The Silence of the Sea (1947), Leon Morin, Priest (1961) and L’armée des ombres—although his film noirs also refer, symbolically, to the Resistance. Joseph Kessel, the author […]