MERRY CHRISTMAS[,] MR. LAWRENCE (Nagisa Oshima, 1983)

Nagisa Oshima, surpassed in Japanese cinema only by Yasujiro Ozu, tends to make movies that are exceptionally harsh and violent; even so, one is not prepared for the cruelty on display in Merry Christmas[,] Mr. Lawrence, Oshima’s adaptation of Afrikaner novelist Laurens Van der Post’s The Seed and the Sower, about cultural and other collisions […]

SHIRIN (Abbas Kiarostami, 2008)

Powerful, mesmerizing, intermittently electrifying, Iran’s Abbas Kiarostami’s Shirin shows us, another audience, an audience watching another film, one that we only hear—like a radio drama, with dialogue, human and animal sounds, sound effects, music—from start to finish. We see more than a hundred audience members reacting to it—reactions that projectively become our own.      We watch […]

ANNA KARENINA (Clarence Brown, 1935)

Greta Garbo, cinema’s greatest actress and most intoxicating beauty, played Anna Karenina twice, both times for Clarence Brown, her favorite director: in 1927, in the silent Love; in 1935, in the talkie, which reclaimed two things: the title of Lev Tolstoi’s novel; Anna’s suicidal end, which a happy ending had replaced for the sake of […]

LETTERS IN THE WIND (Ali Reza-Amini, 2002)

Those who have seen Frederick Wiseman’s documentary Basic Training (1971) or Stanley Kubrick’s fictional Full Metal Jacket (1987), or both, can add Nameha-ye baad, from Iran, to their list of films showing the training of raw military conscripts. In this case, the secluded setting of the army camp is mountainous and snowy, correlative, perhaps, to […]

THE REFUGE (Nigel Barker, 2003)

Beautifully photographed by Alexander Metcalfe with rich patches of color in both interior and exterior expanses of darkness, The Refuge (Asylum) was co-written (along with Simon Ricketts) and directed by Nigel Barker (best director, Cinequest); it is a gripping British docudrama that peters out towards the end before reclaiming the power necessary to batter the […]