FIREWORKS WEDNESDAY (Asghar Farhadi, 2006)

Reminiscent of Delbert Mann’s films in the U.S. in the 1950s (Marty, The Bachelor Party), Asghar Farhadi’s Chaharshanbe-soori is simplistic and melodramatic—yet another instance of how unrewarding cinema can be when it is plot- and character-driven. With all the great films coming from Iran, how does this downcast, “slice-of-life” mediocrity about a housemaid’s domestic travails […]

THE OBERWALD MYSTERY (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1980)

Experimenting with video, Michelangelo Antonioni based his Il mistero di Oberwald on L’aigle a deux têtes, which its playwright, Jean Cocteau, himself filmed (boringly) in 1948. Gorgeously videographed by Luciano Tovoli, this color work—a symphony of filters—reunited Antonioni with Monica Vitti, who is brilliant as a nineteenth-century queen whose King Frederic, age 25, was assassinated […]

THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI (Orson Welles, 1947)

The narration of Orson Welles’s The Lady from Shanghai is ambiguous. One has no way of knowing the extent to which one should believe Michael O’Hara (Welles, excellent).      I set Welles’s film noir in two contexts: “waterfront agitator” O’Hara’s participation in the Spanish Civil War; Welles’s marriage to Rita Hayworth, which was already beginning to […]

PIZZA, BEER, SMOKES (Bruno Stagnaro, Adrián Caetano, 1998)

Adrián Caetano, the gifted young Argentine who wrote and directed Bolivia (2001), earlier co-wrote and co-directed, along with Bruno Stagnaro, Pizza, birra, faso. The culture of boys in their late teens, pressure-cooked by their environment, a Rio de Janeiro slum, is colorfully and convincingly presented—careless lives, steeped in petty crime, amidst slang and obscenities. Sandwiched […]