AWAARA (Raj Kapoor, 1951)

Opulent melodramatic trash from India, not quite redeemed by a progressive social message, Awaara (The Vagabond) is saddled with too much story, and infantile, convoluted story at that, and interrupted by witless tunes and listless dances. Deep from the bowels of Bollywood, and testing the heroic endurance of the audience, the film does boast a […]

MOTHER JOAN OF THE ANGELS (Jerzy Kawalerowicz, 1960)

Think of the gorgeous, austere Matka Joanna od aniolów as the sequel to Ken Russell’s The Devils (1971), with the seventeenth-century historical material transplanted from Loudon, France, to rural, dry, frozen Poland. Father Urbain Grandier has already been burned alive for allowing his manliness to incite the repressed sexuality of nuns at the parish convent; […]

CORIOLANUS (Ralph Fiennes, 2011)

A reciprocation of inflexibility between the common people—a mob of plebeians—and Rome’s scornful military titan, Coriolanus, results in the latter’s downfall following his pursuit of a twisting course that finds him allying himself with Rome’s enemy to wreak vengeance against Rome for turning against him and banishing him: this is the overall movement of William […]

THE WALLS OF MALAPAGA (René Clément, 1948)

Jointly from France and Italy, a key work of postwar European psychology, René Clément’s Au-delà des grilles (literally, Beyond the Gates), in Italy known as Le mura di Malapaga, beautifully fleshes out a highly melodramatic scheme of past, present and future in order to portray, combinately, European trauma and uncertainty. It won the Oscar as […]

HOLIDAY FOR HENRIETTA (Julien Duvivier, 1952)

Two screenwriting partners, always quarrelsome, sometimes vehemently contentious, are collaborating on another script, for which their sharp secretary has given a title amenable to everyone: La fête à Henriette. Young and lithe, Henriette (Dany Robin, enchanting) plans on spending July 14—Bastille Day—in Paris with fiancé Robert, a photojournalist; but Robert’s assignment to cover sensuous, flirtatious […]