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 […]

THE CITADEL (King Vidor, 1938)

Robert Donat gives a brilliant performance—leagues beyond his Oscar-winning one the next year in Goodbye, Mr. Chips (Sam Wood, 1939)—as Andrew Manson, an idealistic young doctor who, investigating the linkage between silica inhalation and lung disease, is opposed by miner-patients and mining board members. After his research laboratory is deliberately destroyed, Andrew and wife Christine […]

THE LAST TRAIN (Pierre Granier-Deferre, 1973)

Based on the 1965 novel by Georges Simenon, Pierre Granier-Deferre’s Le train is an exceptionally powerful extramarital love story beginning in May 1940 during the German invasion of France. Attempting with countless others to flee the Germans, radio repairman Julien Maroyeur (Jean-Louis Trintignant, excellent) is in a freight car of “the last train,” where he […]

TO CATCH A THIEF (Alfred Hitchcock, 1955)

Amiable, sexy, witty, lighthearted entertainment, Alfred Hitchcock’s romance on the French Riviera, To Catch a Thief, nevertheless contains elements that stress this description of it. The principal element of this kind has to do with the past of John Robie, whose inconspicuous retirement from notorious jewel thievery is interrupted by a series of “cat burglaries” […]