On Film

Essays

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Häxan: “Let Her Suffering Begin”
Häxan: “Let Her Suffering Begin”

Decades before the witch became a staple of horror cinema, Benjamin Christensen used this gothic figure to explore the oppression of women in different historical periods.

By Chloé Germaine Buckley

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Häxan: The Real Unreal
Häxan: The Real Unreal

Integrating fact, fiction, objective reality, hallucination, and different levels of representation, this silent masterpiece invented what decades later would be known as the essay film.

By Chris Fujiwara

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The Circus: The Tramp in the Mirror
The Circus: The Tramp in the Mirror

During a tumultuous time in his life, Charlie Chaplin captured his own identity crisis with this deeply introspective comedy, which explores the fine line between success and failure.

By ​Pamela Hutchinson

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Local Hero: Our Man in Ferness
Local Hero: Our Man in Ferness

Decades before climate change became a mainstream topic of conversation, Bill Forsyth’s beloved comedy asked fundamental questions about humankind’s willingness to conserve the natural world.

By Jonathan Murray

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Cluny Brown: The Joys of Plumbing
Cluny Brown: The Joys of Plumbing

In his final completed film, Ernst Lubitsch created one of his most effervescent heroines, a nonconformist with a lust for life and a yearning for freedom.

By Siri Hustvedt

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Polyester: The Perils of Francine
Polyester: The Perils of Francine

After a string of punkish subcultural shockers, John Waters set out to make something different with this hilariously foul take on Hollywood melodrama, his first studio picture.

By Elena Gorfinkel

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The Cloud-Capped Star: A Cry for Life
The Cloud-Capped Star: A Cry for Life

In this landmark melodrama, director Ritwik Ghatak channeled his grief over the destruction of his beloved homeland, Bengal, in the wake of the Partition of India.

By Ira Bhaskar

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The Flavor of Green Tea over Rice: Acquired Tastes
The Flavor of Green Tea over Rice: Acquired Tastes

Class tensions in postwar Japan unsettle the domestic life of a middle-aged couple in this sweetly satirical marriage comedy from Yasujiro Ozu.

By Junji Yoshida

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The Koker Trilogy: Journeys of the Heart
The Koker Trilogy: Journeys of the Heart

Paving a path from neorealism to playfully deconstructive postmodernism, Abbas Kiarostami’s suite of village fables explores complex philosophical mysteries through disarmingly simple means.

By Godfrey Cheshire

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The Inland Sea: Invitation to the Voyage
The Inland Sea: Invitation to the Voyage

In Lucille Carra’s poetic adaptation of a classic travelogue by Donald Richie, an exploration of life in Japan’s Inland Sea becomes a path to self-discovery.

By Arturo Silva

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1984: Coming Soon to a Country Near You
1984: Coming Soon to a Country Near You

Brought to harrowing life in this film adaptation, George Orwell’s dystopian vision continues to ring true today. But so does his belief in the power of love and hope to overthrow the darkness.

By A. L. Kennedy

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Do the Right Thing: Walking in Stereo
Do the Right Thing: Walking in Stereo

Even as it inexorably rolls toward tragedy, Spike Lee’s masterpiece takes in the symphonic scale of the human condition in all its variety and precariousness.

By Vinson Cunningham

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The Baker’s Wife: Bread, Love, and a Trophy Wife
The Baker’s Wife: Bread, Love, and a Trophy Wife

In his first major film to capture the Provençal setting that would come to define his work, Marcel Pagnol brilliantly combined comedy and emotion, theater and cinema.

By Ginette Vincendeau

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Klute: Trying to See Her
Klute: Trying to See Her

Alan J. Pakula’s partnership with a newly politicized Jane Fonda turned what could have been a run-of-the-mill detective movie into a psychologically vivid portrait of a strong female character.

By Mark Harris

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Europa Europa: Border States
Europa Europa: Border States

This darkly comic vision of survival and deception during the Holocaust captures a crisis of ideological fanaticism that continues to plague contemporary Europe.

By Amy Taubin

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War and Peace: Saint Petersburg Fiddles, Moscow Burns
War and Peace: Saint Petersburg Fiddles, Moscow Burns

Sergei Bondarchuk pulled out all the stops to bring Tolstoy’s sprawling vision to the screen, and the result remains one of the most extravagant epic films of all time.

By Ella Taylor

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Hedwig and the Angry Inch: She Sings the Body Electric
Hedwig and the Angry Inch: She Sings the Body Electric

A work of rapturous energy, John Cameron Mitchell’s beloved debut feature is a freewheeling rock-and-roll musical suffused with heartbreak and pleasure.

By Stephanie Zacharek

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L’humanité: Ordinary Human Behavior
L’humanité: Ordinary Human Behavior

In his idiosyncratic, award-winning second film, Bruno Dumont uses the story of an alienated police detective to investigate the most elemental aspects of human experience.

By Nicholas Elliott

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La vie de Jésus: The Sky Above
La vie de Jésus: The Sky Above

Bruno Dumont’s remarkable first feature examines the intermingling of the sacred and the profane in the French provinces.

By Nicholas Elliott

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Swing Time: Heaven Can’t Wait
Swing Time: Heaven Can’t Wait

In their most sublime collaboration, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers perfected a seamless blend of song, dance, and swooning romance.

By Imogen Sara Smith

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Through a Glass Darkly, Winter Light, and The Silence: The Word and the Spirit
Through a Glass Darkly, Winter Light, and The Silence: The Word and the Spirit

In this series of intense chamber dramas influenced by the work of August Strindberg, Ingmar Bergman grapples with Europe’s collective crisis of faith in the modern era.

By Catherine Wheatley

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One Sings, the Other Doesn’t: Bodies and Selves
One Sings, the Other Doesn’t: Bodies and Selves

In one of her most buoyant films, Agnès Varda captured the emotional complexities at the heart of women’s struggle to win autonomy over their own bodies.

By Amy Taubin

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Let the Sunshine In: One Love
Let the Sunshine In: One Love

Claire Denis and Juliette Binoche grapple with the realities of middle-aged loneliness and the eternal quest for companionship in this candid quasi comedy.

By Stephanie Zacharek

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Funny Games: Don’t You Want to See How It Ends?
Funny Games: Don’t You Want to See How It Ends?

With this controversial treatise on violence and media, Michael Haneke created a spectacle that is both intensely watchable and hard to stomach.


By Bilge Ebiri

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