TIME OF THE GYPSIES (Emir Kusturíca, 1988)

Dazzlingly made by Emir Kusturíca (best director, Cannes), Dom za vešanje (which is in Serbian)—literally, Home for Hanging—is a gripping, engrossing Yugoslavian melodrama about Perhan, who descends into petty crime to pay for his crippled sister’s hospital care and for the house he wants built for himself and his grandmother. It is also a colorful, […]

IN DARKNESS (Agnieszka Holland, 2011)

Subterranean handheld camera: flickering patches of light in darkness: human faces; human lives.     There must always be the modern Israel: this is the message of Agnieszka Holland’s stunning In Darkness. About the almost inconceivably challenging ordeal of Jewish adults and children hiding for 14 months in the dark, rat-infested Lvov sewers during the German […]

SPIRAL (Krzysztof Zanussi, 1978)

Mesmerizing and deeply affecting, Polish writer-director Krzysztof Zanussi’s Spirala so closely attends to a single character that it evolves into a spiritual as well as psychological portrait of the young man. Tomasz Piątek, although he hasn’t booked a room, enters a ski resort. He behaves enigmatically, accosting other guests with rude, personal remarks and interrupting […]

BIRDIES, ORPHANS AND MADMEN (Juraj Jakubisko, 1969)

Beauteous, powerful, politically incendiary, Vtáčkovia, siroty a blázni—its Slovak title is widely translated as Birds, Orphans and Fools—was made in Czechoslovakia, with French assistance, by writer-director Juraj Jakubisko, I believe, in the midst of the Soviet invasion of 1968. (Karol Sidon co-authored the script with Jakubisko.) The apocalyptic film was suppressed for more than twenty […]

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; […]