THE CONFESSION (Costa-Gavras, 1970)

Tauter, more humane and engrossing than his Oscar-winning Z (1969), Costa-Gavras’s L’aveu derives from a firsthand published account of the 1952 Czechoslovak show trials, ordered by Soviet premier Stalin, that aimed to purge the Czechoslovak Communist Party of undesirables on trumped-up charges of treason and espionage. One defendant was Party-loyal Artur London, vice-minister of foreign […]

DEATH IN THE GARDEN (Luis Buñuel, 1956)

In Luis Buñuel’s keenly evocative La mort en ce jardin, the “garden” suggesting the God-given paradise that Adam and Eve corrupted is, in reality, the atheistic jungle to which a group from a South American mining village take to escape the military police, which have the state in their grip. During the flight, late into […]

ROOM AT THE TOP (Jack Clayton, 1958)

Although mainstream, Room at the Top, from John Braine’s first novel, owes something to the British Free Cinema movement and itself launched the “kitchen-sink” genre. It was deemed most radical for divesting British cinema of its traditional sexual reticence; but what astounds me is its employment of a bomb-blasted northern slum as a metaphor for […]

LA RONDE (Max Ophüls, 1950)

From Arthur Schnitzler’s play Reigen Max Ophüls has created a rueful, wistful meditation on the transience of love, implicitly, life’s transience. It is love’s merry-go-round suited to a waltz—a haunting waltz by Oscar Straus. More: the film itself is a waltz, lovely, lilting, passing, passing into sadness and melancholy: the inevitable end to a waltz. […]

THE WIDOW COUDERC (Pierre Granier-Deferre, 1971)

From Simenon, Pierre Granier-Deferre’s La veuve Couderc is an engrossing, finely realistic, naturalistic drama set in rural France in 1934. Commenting on the rise of fascism in France, the film isolates the strain in the French personality that would lead some to collaborate with Germans during the Occupation up ahead; it culminates in a massive […]