NIGHT NURSE (William A. Wellman, 1931)

As a hospital-affiliated private nurse, Lora Hart suspects that her two patients—young children; sisters—are being starved to death by an ambitious thug who plans on marrying the mother so he can inherit the girls’ trust fund. Essentially, Wild Bill Wellman’s compulsively watchable Depression melodrama Night Nurse is an assault on medical “ethics”—code, for doctors not […]

THE LOVE OF SUMAKO THE ACTRESS (Kenji Mizoguchi, 1947)

Starring as early twentieth-century stage actress Sumako Matsui, Kinuyo Tanaka (best actress, Mainichi Film Concours) provides a sumptuous tour-de-force as a feisty, independent woman whose vulnerability is her love for her partner, Hôgetsu Shimamura, the director of the itinerant Art Theater to which she belongs. When Shimamura dies of pneumonia, Sumako falls apart and her […]

CALAMARI UNION (Aki Kaurismäki, 1985)

By integrating both paintings and a comic book’s illustrations into its black-and-white world, writer-director Aki Kaurismäki’s second fictional work, Calamari Union, helps make that world all the more convincing as a means of grounding its absurdities. Finland’s greatest film artist ever applies his deadpan humor to this stark, scattered depiction of seventeen electric guitar- or […]