AFONYA (Georgi Daneliya, 1975)

A Soviet tragicomedy written wonderfully well by Aleksandr Borodyanskiy and directed by Georgi Daneliya at a fast clip, at least in its urban phase, Afonya charts the slippage into regretfulness of an “indifferent,” self-absorbed 42-year-old plumber who drinks excessively, including on the job, and pursues one woman after another, without giving much thought to them. […]

STATEMENT

The reason that I haven’t delivered my usual “bests” in film for 2012 is that I saw no 2012 films during the year and have seen only two since (both of them documentaries), and the reason for that is that I’ve spent long stretches of time in hospitals and nursing centers. I am ill; I […]

JENNIE GERHARDT (Marion Gering, 1933)

Sylvia Sidney, here exquisitely lovely as well as delicately poignant, gives her finest performance in the title role of Jennie Gerhardt, based on Theodore Dreiser’s 1911 novel. Dreiser, who didn’t think much of the novel, his second, nevertheless admired the film, which he described as “beautifully interpreted.” Director Marion Gering gave this piece of work […]

THE MINERS’ HYMNS (Bill Morrison, 2011

Haunting as well as most impressive, British documentarian Bill Morrison’s The Miners’ Hymns mines black-and-white archival material from one hundred years earlier, and more, to assemble a portrait of workers—coal miners—lost to time, and to juxtapose their permanent anonymity with the expanses of land in northeast England below which the mines, long since permanently shut […]

SNOW-WHITE (Dave Fleischer, 1933)

Produced by Max Fleischer and directed by brother Dave, their Snow-White is a masterpiece of animation. The “dwarfs” are (thank goodness!) banished to the briefest edge of the action (and to the Mystery Cave, where they deposit Snow-White to protect her from her stepmother’s jealous wrath), and the Prince is eliminated entirely; from the Grimm […]

TWO CENTS’ WORTH OF HOPE (Renato Castellani, 1952)

The conclusion of his “young love” trilogy, Due soldi di speranza found writer-director Renato Castellani sharing the top prize at Cannes with Orson Welles’s Othello. (Ettore Maria Margadonna and Titina De Filippo collaborated with him on the film’s story and screenplay.) Italy’s critics named Castellani the year’s best filmmaker while also adjudging the script that […]

ELIZABETH TAYLOR

Such a brave, kind heart, and those violet eyes. And that silver laugh! Elizabeth Taylor was a great beauty and, in Joseph Losey’s “Secret Ceremony,” a brilliant actress: 1968’s BEST actress. She was marvelous, too, in “A Place in the Sun,” “Giant,” “Raintree County,” “Butterfield 8,” “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” “The Taming of the […]