POCKETFUL OF MIRACLES (Frank Capra, 1961) and LADY FOR A DAY (Frank Capra, 1933)

Pocketful of Miracles, from a Damon Runyan story, did not fare well with reviewers; their savaging of it convinced Frank Capra, its director, to retire from filmmaking. It is overlong, opulent and inflated, in the reigning Hollywood style of its day. Everyone agrees that its Great Depression fairy tale about Dave the Dude and Apple […]

MY TEHRAN FOR SALE (Granaz Moussavi, 2009)

There is considerable value in My Tehran for Sale’s tackling the topic and the milieu that it does. Iran today is so repressive that young Iranians must “go underground” to participate in raves and other forms of youthful expression; the state does not allow such activities. Progressive theater is likewise forbidden. The protagonist of writer-director […]

THE THEME (Gleb Panfilov, 1979)

A Chekhovian tragicomedy, Gleb Panfilov’s Tema, co-written by Panfilov and Aleksandr Chervinsky, follows Moscowite Kim Esenin, a popular though increasingly superficial and “conformist” playwright, back to Vladimir, his hometown, where he anticipates relaxation and refreshment. On this trip he ruminates on the source of his artistic inspiration: the area’s landscape, at this point whited out […]

THIS IS NOT A FILM (Jafar Panahi, Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, 2011)

In film nist is a bracing “attempt” at something. It is “not a film” because it must not be a film. Its principal maker, Jafar Panahi, has been arrested and sentenced to six years’ imprisonment and banned from making films or even writing screenplays for 20 years. His crimes? Panahi protested the results of Iran’s […]

COLLEGE (Buster Keaton, James W. Horne, 1927)

College, an underrated silent slapstick comedy, resolves its ridiculous plot with a formally brilliant and profoundly moving illustration of the limits a boy can bust through for the girl he loves. Ronald, beautifully played by Buster Keaton, as his high school class valedictorian irks Mary (pert, lovely Ann Cornwall), the girl he desires, with his […]