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 […]

ALL THIS, AND HEAVEN TOO (Anatole Litvak, 1940)

Bette Davis would have been Oscar-nominated for her magnificent, deeply moving performance as young French governess Henriette Deluzy-Desportes had William Wyler’s The Letter, in which Davis acts even more brilliantly, not come out the same year and closer to year’s end. Based on an actual scandal involving rumored adultery, a woman’s violent death and her […]

AJAMI (Scandar Copti, Yaron Shani, 2009)

A beneficiary of the legacy of Roberto Rossellini’s and Krzysztof Kieślowski’s narrative strategies unhinging linear plot (think Paisà, 1946, Dekalog, 1988), Ajami is an Israeli masterpiece. Set in Ajami, Jaffa, south of Tel Aviv, where Jews, Arabs, including Palestinians, and Christians live together in an atmosphere fraught with tension, luridly gripped by criminal elements and […]