Keeper of the Secret: Remembering Jeanne Moreau
French New Wave icon Jeanne Moreau possessed a stillness, a way of surrendering to the camera, that made her utterly unique among modern actors.
The Emigrants/The New Land: Homelands
Jan Troell’s narration of one Swedish couple’s arduous journey to America portrays the migratory quality of marriage—of “finding that you think of this person who is not you, or this place that is not the land of your birth, as your home.”
The Apu Trilogy: Every Common Sight
Satyajit Ray began his filmmaking career by offering a vision of the young Apu, the character he would go on to follow throughout the three films of his stunning breakthrough epic.
The Bridge: Cannon Fodder
German director Bernhard Wicki proved his uncommon cinematic skill with his heartbreaking tale of teen soldiers sent off to die near the end of World War II.
Macbeth: Something Wicked
Roman Polanski’s dark vision is the perfect fit for Shakespeare’s grim tale of treachery and ambition.
Bay of Angels: Walking on Sand
Jeanne Moreau’s flighty, enigmatic Jackie in Jacques Demy’s poetic drama is in the great tradition of dreamy Demy heroines.
In Which We Serve: Battle Stations
Good wartime propaganda films are as rare as good wars. Noël Coward and David Lean’s In Which We Serve, which had its premiere in Great Britain in September 1942, when the nation was entering the fourth year of hostilities with the Axis powers, wa…
Les cousins: The Nature of the Beast
Jean-Luc Godard, lover of paradox, once characterized Claude Chabrol’s Les cousins (1959) as “a deeply hollow and therefore profound film,” a pronouncement, like so many of the pithy mots Godard used to reel off in the pages of Cahiers du cin…
Le beau Serge: Homecomings
When Claude Chabrol’s first film, Le beau Serge, had its premiere at the 1958 Cannes Film Festival (out of competition), a fellow critic at Cahiers du cinéma, François Truffaut, wrote: “Technically, the film is as masterly as if Chabrol had b…
Diabolique: Murder Considered
as One of the Fine Arts
Among the most enduringly popular motives for murder, in films as in life, is the desire to remove an impediment to happiness—to get somebody, once and for all, out of the way. In life, of course, the goal of freeing oneself by canceling the exi…
The Night of the Hunter:
The Night of the Hunter (1955)—the first film directed by Charles Laughton and also, sadly, the last—is among the greatest horror movies ever made, and perhaps, of that select company, the most irreducibly American in spirit. It’s about thos…
For All Mankind: Fantastic Voyage
Tough title to live up to. The lofty three-word phrase Al Reinert chose for his 1989 documentary on the Apollo space program comes from the plaque the first men on the moon, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, left there in July 1969—“We came in peac…
La ronde: Vicious Circle
In the too-brief life and art of Max Ophuls (1902–57), La ronde was a momentous film, a turning point. It represented a homecoming of sorts, though “home” was a rather fluid concept for Ophuls, who was born in Germany, worked in the theater the…
Blast of Silence: Bad Trip
Allen Baron’s stark, moody Blast of Silence (1961) is a movie of many strange distinctions. It’s among the last of the true film noirs, those fatalistic black-and-white urban crime dramas that darkened the American screen so gloriously in the yea…
Elevator to the Gallows:
Louis Malle on the Ground Floor
François Truffaut once wrote, “All of Louis Malle, all his good qualities and faults, was in Elevator to the Gallows”—a statement that, even given French film criticism’s traditionally high tolerance for the counterintuitive, pretty unambigu…
Stray Dog: Kurosawa Comes of Age
Stray Dog, the ninth film directed by Akira Kurosawa, is a detective story that’s also meant to function as a commentary on the desperate social conditions of postwar Japan: a kind of neorealist cop movie. The filmmaker wrote his screenplay first i…
Reviewing Laurence Olivier’s 1948 film of Hamlet, James Agee—then a critic at Time—wrote: “The man who brings Hamlet, his friends, and his antagonists to life has tackled one of the most fascinating and most thankless tasks in show business. …
Fires on the Plain
Tamura (Eiji Funakoshi), the hero of Kon Ichikawa’s overwhelming Fires on the Plain, may be the loneliest man in the history of the movies—lonelier than the spiritual pilgrims of Bergman, Bresson, and Dreyer. He is a soldier in an army that, in d…