THE WHITE SHIP (Roberto Rossellini, 1941)

The raising of a naval ship’s three guns, along with similar flashes of militaristic rhetoric, recalls Battleship Potemkin (1925)—an odd thing, one would think, for a Fascist film to do. Things get stranger, for this Eisensteinian opening is immediately undercut by a warm-hearted, very funny scene among sailors composing letters to female pen-pals, the humanity […]

NORA (Pat Murphy, 2000)

The twentieth century’s three greatest writers who were born to the English language were all Irish: Yeats, Joyce, Beckett.      Based on Brenda Maddox’s biography, Nora begins in 1904 Dublin when Nora Barnacle, from Galway and a chambermaid at Finn’s Hotel, meets for the first time James Joyce, the future author of Portrait of an Artist […]

THE HUMAN BEAST (Jean Renoir, 1938)

Shorn of Zola’s complicated plot and fiercely ironical conclusion, Jean Renoir’s La bête humaine still pays lip service to the 1890 novel’s theme pertaining to engine driver Jacques Lantier’s periodic fits of homicidal madness owing to ancestral behavior, including drunkenness and debauchery. Lantier (Jean Gabin, wonderfully gentle, soft-spoken) is Gervaise’s son. Trains seem peculiarly capable […]