On Film

Essays

1169 Results
Memories of Murder: In the Killing Jar

Bong Joon Ho combines gritty crime drama with absurdist comedy in his breakthrough second feature, a dark tale set during a tumultuous period in South Korean history.

By Ed Park

History Is Made at Night: Taking a Chance on Love

The feeling of freedom in this swooningly beautiful blend of melodrama and romantic comedy speaks to director Frank Borzage’s belief in the invincibility of love.

By Dan Callahan

Defending Your Life: Real Afterlife

In this comic vision of the great beyond, Albert Brooks finds the sweet spot between the acerbic satire of his early films and the humanism of his later work.

By Ari Aster

Secrets & Lies: Seen and Not Seen

Mike Leigh’s midcareer masterpiece is one of the finest examples of his ability to construct riveting drama from ordinary life.

By Ashley Clark

World of Wong Kar Wai: Like the Most Beautiful Times

By marrying the glamour of golden-age Hollywood to a quicksilver formal daring influenced by a wide range of artists, the Hong Kong auteur became one of the coolest and most beloved filmmakers in the world in the 1990s.

By John Powers

Céline and Julie Go Boating: State of Play

Drawing on influences ranging from classic Hollywood to cartoons, Jacques Rivette’s uncategorizable masterpiece plunges viewers into a world shaped by the friendship and imagination shared by two soul sisters.

By Beatrice Loayza

Touki bouki: Word, Sound, and Power

One of the most striking debuts in film history, Djibril Diop Mambéty’s unconventional picaresque forged new aesthetic paths for African cinema with its dreamlike narrative, discontinuous editing, and jagged soundscapes.

By Ashley Clark

Chop Shop: American Hustle

With novelistic intimacy, Rahmin Bahrani’s follow-up to Man Push Cart illuminates the economic desperation hiding in plain sight in contemporary America.

By Viet Thanh Nguyen

Man Push Cart: A Melancholy Pull

Set in a transient, post-9/11 New York City, Rahmin Bahrani’s feature debut follows the Sisyphean toil of a Pakistani immigrant whose life teeters on the verge of catastrophe.

By Bilge Ebiri

Smooth Talk: Girl Power

A film that now plays like a harbinger of the #MeToo movement, Joyce Chopra’s first fiction feature shows how the myths that direct how girls come of age threaten their safe passage to womanhood.

By Honor Moore

Mandabi: Paper Trail

Ousmane Sembène’s second feature departs from his early-career critiques of colonial power, instead focusing on the oppressive forces manifested within postcolonial African society.

By Tiana Reid

The Parallax View: Dark Towers

Alan J. Pakula captured the anxiety of the seventies in this noir-inflected conspiracy thriller, which offers a critique both of American institutions and of the self-made heroes who do battle with them.

By Nathan Heller

The Ascent: Out in the Cold

Set against a forbidding backdrop of war, this masterpiece of Soviet cinema contemplates the sources of evil while also searching for signs of meaning and divinity in a fallen world.

By Fanny Howe

Rolling Thunder Revue: American Multitudes

Combining elements of truth and artifice, Martin Scorsese’s documentary of Bob Dylan’s 1975–76 tour captures the legendary singer-songwriter brimming with confidence and at the peak of his gifts.

By Dana Spiotta

Minding the Gap: What It’s About

Bing Liu’s extraordinary debut feature was originally conceived as a documentary about skaters around the country and ultimately became an unflinching exploration of family, trauma, and the filmmaker’s own life.

By Jay Caspian Kang

That Obscure Object of Desire: Desire, Denuded

Luis Buñuel weaved together multiple strands of his artistry in his final film, which blends the surrealism of his early years, the melodrama of his 1950s work, and the elegant erotic comedy of his late career.

By Adrian Martin

The Phantom of Liberty: The Serpentine Movements of Chance

Luis Buñuel lays bare the amorality and illogic of human affairs in the slew of straight-faced absurdities that make up his penultimate film.

By Gary Indiana

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie: More and Less

Crazy things keep happening in Luis Buñuel’s perverse comedy of manners, a film that coolly deconstructs itself at every turn.

By Adrian Martin

Amores perros: The Dogs That Heralded the Millennium

Capturing the tense mood of a new millennium, Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s debut feature explores the hidden spaces of Mexico City at a moment of political turbulence and extreme social stratification.

By Juan Villoro

Amores perros: Force of Impact

With its thought-provoking structure, interweaving story lines, and saturated colors, Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s debut feature represented a quantum leap in the audiovisual grammar of Mexican cinema.

By Fernanda Solórzano

Crash: The Wreck of the Century

In one of the most controversial films of his career, David Cronenberg adapts a scandalous J. G. Ballard novel, radically overhauling its story to address a society paralyzed in the headlights of a new millennium.

By Jessica Kiang

The Irishman: The Wages of Loyalty

Sprawling across more than half a century of American history, Martin Scorsese’s crime saga combines epic ambition with a mood of isolation and dissolution.

By Geoffrey O’Brien

Primary Sources

With roots in Italian neorealism, Federico Fellini’s beguiling body of work moved beyond that movement to embrace the coalescing of real life and dream life.

By Michael Almereyda

Moonstruck: Life in the In-Between

In this highly quotable, opera-infused romantic comedy, Norman Jewison finds endless possibilities in a world dominated by constricting binaries.

By Emily VanDerWerff