THE AFRICAN QUEEN (John Huston, 1951)

It is frightful to consider: When the 1951 Oscar nominations were announced, John Huston placed among the candidates for writing and directing—not for his film that year that mattered, and still matters, The Red Badge of Courage, but for an amiable, rollicking romance and World War I adventure that brought in the bucks: The African […]

THE SILENT TOUCH (Krzysztof Zanussi, 1992)

Co-written by Peter Morgan—whose career of late has taken off: The Last King of Scotland (Kevin Macdonald, 2006), The Queen (Stephen Frears, 2006), Frost/Nixon (Ron Howard, 2008), which is based on his play—and Mark Wadlow, Dotkniecie reki, from Poland and the U.K., is an interesting mix of comedy, romance and Holocaust aftermath. Its centerpiece is […]

BEAU TRAVAIL (Claire Denis, 1999)

First things first. Her gorgeous, brilliant Beau travail, whatever Claire Denis may think, has nothing to do with Herman Melville’s even more brilliant Billy Budd, which questions our allegorizing tendency, as well as our ready submission to various kinds of authority (military, media, biblical, political, etc.), and does not involve any allegorical confrontation between good […]

A SHADOW YOU SOON WILL BE (Héctor Olivera, 1994)

Based on Osvaldo Soriano’s novel, writer-director Héctor Olivera’s Una sombra ya pronto serás is an uneven, though somewhat affecting “road picture” from Argentina. Its anonymous protagonist is (according to him) inaccurately addressed as “Zárate” by another character, circus-owner and perpetual clown Coluccini, who seems to have wandered in from a Fellini movie. Because Coluccini, who […]

GOODBYE SOUTH, GOODBYE (Hou Hsiao-hsien, 1996)

Taiwan’s rudderless young underclass is epitomized by two low-level criminals—their criminality eventually gets politically connected upwards—and the girlfriend of one of them. These are Kao (played by Jack Kao, who with King Jieh-Wen wrote the story that Chu T’ien-wen turned into a brilliant script), Flathead and Pretzel. In the opening shot they are onboard a […]