ANASTASIA (Anatole Litvak, 1956)

Despite its uncertain tone that unexpectedly resolves itself in comedy and romance, Anatole Litvak’s Anastasia touches on momentous subjects: historical ambiguities; the exploitation of these due to greed and the spirit of adventure; the problem of identity, including the eternal mystery of identity; however embroiled one is in history, an individual’s right to self-determination. However […]

STRAY DOGS (Marzieh Mishkini, 2004)

On the bombed streets of Kabul, on their own, a young brother and sister, Zahed and Gol-Ghotai, along with countless other children, scavenge to survive. The pair discover a charred book; like wood scraps, this can be sold for burning—for heat. The U.S.-Taliban war in Afghanistan—punctuating shots show a U.S. plane high in the sky—has […]

THE MILK OF SORROW (Claudia Llosa, 2008)

You may recall I was taken (as were many others) with Peruvian writer-director Claudia Llosa’s first film, Madeinusa (2006), a raw assault on neocolonialism’s assault on indigenous people that I described as being, before rigid determinism thins it out, “coarse, vulgar, vivid, at times visually and emotionally spectacular.” For me, a filmmaking star was born. […]

HOTEL TERMINUS (Marcel Ophüls, 1988)

“He looked like an ordinary man.” “Do you know I’m Jewish?” Marcel Ophüls, son of Max, asks when a former associate of Klaus Barbie, the “Butcher of Lyon,” insists that Barbie didn’t dislike Jews. This moment electrifies in the brilliant, intricate 4½-hour Ophüls documentary Hôtel Terminus: The Life and Times of Klaus Barbie; it splits […]

THE DYBBUK (Michal Waszynski, 1937)

In Jewish folklore, a dybbuk is a restless ghost that invades and possesses the soul of someone that he, when human, had once loved. It provides the plot-mainspring of Sholom Ansky’s celebrated 1914 play. Dark, solemn, turbulent, gorgeous, melodious with folk and religious song, illimitably sad, the 1937 film, Der Dibuk, in Yiddish, is from […]