THE SERPENT’S EGG (Ingmar Bergman, 1977)

Ingmar Bergman considered The Serpent’s Egg, which he wrote and directed, to be a horror film; he was right. Like his earlier English-language film, The Touch (1971), it is about a Jewish American—in this case, Abel Rosenberg, a jobless trapeze acrobat stranded in inflationary, impoverished Berlin in the 1920s as a result of the economic […]

PRICK UP YOUR EARS (Stephen Frears, 1987)

The title of Stephen Frears’s best film, Prick Up Your Ears, can be read in two entirely different ways (one referring to ears, the other to another, specifically male body part), and one of these was considered sufficiently salacious in Ronald Reagan’s reactionary America that the film couldn’t be given mainstream advertisement in many parts […]

WELCOME, MR. MARSHALL! (Luis García Berlanga, 1952)

“I will not put up with any irony.” Sharply written by the director, Luis García Berlanga, along with Juan Antonio Bardem and Miguel Mihura, ¡Bienvenido Mister Marshall! is a film from Spain whose hectic satirical comedy, especially given its lively, dense scenes of humanity, somewhat resembles Preston Sturges’s Hollywood films. (Fernando Rey’s calm voiceover narration […]

WET ASPHALT (Frank Wisbar, 1958)

Written by Will Tremper, immersed in gorgeous gloom by Helmut Ashley’s black-and-white cinematography and electrified by Horst Buchholz’s lead performance, Nasser Asphalt is a superficial film, set in 1951 Berlin, about honest versus dishonest print journalism in relation to the gathering “history” referencing the recent world war that ended in Germany’s defeat. It is about […]

A TREATISE ON JAPANESE BAWDY SONGS (Nagisa Oshima, 1967)

Songs: their singing both expresses and partially numbs bad feelings. This paradox of humanity correlates to the appearance of Nagisa Oshima’s brilliant, largely improvised Nihon shunka-kô, sometimes translated as Sing a Song of Sex, where color often translates into black and white, in particular, a palette of soft, melancholy grays. Uttered on a college campus […]