A FOREIGN AFFAIR (Billy Wilder, 1948)

Dark, mordant and, at times, dangerously funny, Billy Wilder’s brilliant comedy A Foreign Affair is Hollywood’s contribution to the German genre trummerfilme; it was “largely” shot on location, amidst the ruins and rubble of bombed-out postwar Berlin. It shows defeat and demoralization—and tenacity and dim hope. It is bleedingly moving to boot—an assault on German […]

WEE GEORDIE (Frank Launder, 1955)

Based on David Walker’s novel Geordie (the original title, incidentally, of the British film), Wee Geordie is a gentle, amiable comedy about a puny Scottish schoolboy, a gamekeeper’s sensitive son, who beefs up his stature by following a bodybuilding correspondence course and winds up representing his nation as a hammer-thrower at the 1956 Olympics in […]

THE LETTER (Jean de Limur, 1929)

A curio, the Hollywood film version of W. Somerset Maugham’s story and play The Letter previous to the famous 1940 version that William Wyler brilliantly directed draws attention on two grounds: pre-code, it retains Maugham’s ironical resolution of the plot; it stars Jeanne Eagels, a legendary American stage actress who made nine films beginning in […]

ERASERHEAD (David Lynch, 1977)

Exquisite and yet somehow, simultaneously, luxuriant, writer-director David Lynch’s first feature, Eraserhead, announces, in gorgeous black and white, an intuitive artist. What precisely does this mean? If you have seen Charlie Rose interview him, you know that Lynch is incapable of “explaining” whatever it is that he is doing in his films; he becomes bashfully […]

INDIA: MATRI BHUMI (Roberto Rossellini, 1958)

Artist and film critic Fred Camper has named Roberto Rossellini’s India: The Great Mother—but more widely called, simply, India—one of his three favorite films. Andrew Sarris called it “one of the prodigious achievements of the [twentieth] century.” And Jean-Luc Godard, no less, has likened it to “the creation of the world.” Last Sunday, I watched […]

CHARADE (Stanley Donen, 1963)

Stanley Donen’s best film by far, the scintillating mystery-comedy-thriller-romance Charade, has often been described as “the best Hitchcock movie that Hitchcock didn’t direct.” Not so—not by a long shot. A stylish, purely superficial entertainment that is not really about anything, Charade is dwarfed by the achievement of North by Northwest (1959), the “Hitchcock movie” with […]