PELLE THE CONQUEROR (Bille August, 1987)

Prosaic, pictorial rather than visually expressive, richly photographed in color by Jörgen Persson and beautifully acted by 12-year-old Pelle Hvenegaard in the title role (best young actor, European Film Awards), Pelle erobreren is based on the first of the four 1906-1910 novels by future communist Martin Andersen Nexø. His namesake, modeled on Nexø, is indeed […]

PRECIOUS (Lee Daniels, 2009)

To prevent its being confused with another 2009 Push, Lee Daniels’s film is being called Precious: Based on the [1996] Novel Push by Sapphire. Mindful of Ralph Ellison’s 1952 novel Invisible Man, one might instead call the film Invisible Girl. Sixteen-year-old Claireece Precious Jones is an illiterate, overweight junior high school girl in 1987 Harlem. […]

SPARE PARTS (Damjan Kozole, 2003)

Absent any analysis of causes for recent refugeeism in Europe, writer-director Damjan Kozole’s Rezervni deli is more unpleasant to watch than it is edifying. This drama about the clandestine transportation of illegal refugees, for 1,000 euros a head, from Croatia, through Slovenia, and across Italy’s border, and the toll this takes on both refugees and […]

WATCH ON THE RHINE (Herman Shumlin, 1943)

Mostly relying on Lillian Hellman’s expanded stage melodrama and some terrific performances, Watch on the Rhine is a stirring entertainment. Herman Shumlin’s first film—Shumlin had directed the Broadway production—has me crying so hard I can barely breathe whenever I watch it.      On the train to Washington, D.C., Sara Muller, who has been in Europe for […]

GOMORRA (Matteo Garrone, 2008)

The Camorra is an actual criminal mob whose base of operations is Naples, Italy. Matteo Garrone’s sober, unblinking, coolly observant Gomorra is pulsatingly contemporary, riveting, unsentimental and, cumulatively, massively moving. It is based on the 2006 book by 26-year-old journalist Roberto Saviano; since its publication Saviano has needed constant police protection. We learn at film’s […]