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  • Bigger Than Life 1956

    ★★★★★ Added

    James Mason is a schoolteacher and family man who begins suffering from a bizarre strain of megalomania after becoming addicted to the prescription “wonder drug” cortisone. Director Nicholas Ray’s unparalleled mastery of ‘Scope framing (check out what he does with the staircase in Mason’s home) and Technicolor (those yellow cabs!), combined with mise-en-scene that reconfigures American post-war prosperity as something nightmarish and oppressive, is perfectly suited to the melodramatic storyline. “God was wrong!”

  • The Lovers on the Bridge 1991

    ★★★★★ Watched 13 Feb, 2012

  • Top of the Lake 2013

    ★★★★ Added

    Just as Vertigo and Shutter Island hold up well upon re-watching — even after one knows their “twists” are coming — because they still provide a potent nightmarish immersion into an ocean of feelings (obsession, guilt, fear, etc.), so too does Top of the Lake allow viewers, first and foremost, the cathartic experience of luxuriating in an atmosphere of righteous anger and sorrow.

    Full review on my blog: whitecitycinema.com/2013/04/22/now-playing-top-of-the-lake/

  • L’argent 1983

    ★★★★★ Added 1

    Robert Bresson’s swan song, as tight and compressed as a Ramones song, is a masterful update of Tolstoy’s short story The Forged Note. Bresson’s ingenious narrative follows a counterfeit bill, initially passed off in a shop as a schoolboy prank, which sets off a chain of events (an “avalanche of evil” in the director’s own indelible words) that ends with a young man murdering an entire family with an axe. This vital, rigorous movie, made when the director was 82 but seeming like the work of a much younger man, is the ultimate artistic statement about the potentially destructive power of money.

  • Greed 1924

    ★★★★★ Added

    Erich von Stroheim’s nine hour adaptation of Frank Norris’ classic American novel McTeague was brutally cut down to its present two hour and twenty minute running time by MGM executives, who also unconscionably destroyed all of the excised footage. Remarkably, the remaining shadow of Stroheim’s original vision (an excoriating indictment of the destructive power of money about a dentist, his wife and best friend who find their lives torn apart by greed) is still a deathless masterpiece. The powerhouse performances and shot-on-location Death Valley climax are unforgettable.

  • The Gospel According to St. Matthew 1964

    ★★★★★ Added

    Pier Paolo Pasolini’s best-loved film is this unorthodox but reverential version of the Christ story in which the life of Jesus (hauntingly portrayed by non-actor Enrique Irazoqui) is told in straightforward, realistic fashion – from his birth in Bethlehem to his revolutionary political teachings to his crucifixion, death and resurrection at Golgotha. Some critics have detected a Marxist slant to Pasolini’s take yet this is a movie virtually anyone, even the Pope, could love. The impressively eclectic soundtrack features Bach, Mahalia Jackson and Blind Willie Johnson.

  • The Blue Angel 1930

    ★★★★½ Added

    The Blue Angel is notable for many reasons, including its status as the first German talkie and the film that launched Marlene Dietrich to international stardom. The story is reminiscent of Variety with Emil Jannings again playing a man who is driven to ruin by a treacherous woman, this time a cabaret singer of loose morals named Lola Lola (Dietrich at her most iconic). This was the only German-made film by Austrian director Josef von Sternberg.

  • The Way He Looks 2014

    ★★★½ Added 1

    This winning debut feature from writer/director Daniel Ribeiro puts an original spin on the tried-and-true coming-of-age genre: in the opening scene, the 15-year-old protagonist, Leonardo (Ghilherme Lobo), and his best friend, Giovana (Tess Amorim), commiserate poolside over the fact that they’ve never been kissed. Think you know where this is going? Think again. Leonardo is a blind and closeted gay kid, who is only gradually brought out of his shell after the arrival at his school of another gay kid,…

  • The Band Wagon 1953

    ★★★★★ Added

    My own personal favorite musical is this Vincente Minnelli gem. Tony Hunter (Fred Astaire) is an over the hill hoofer whose latest show, a theatrical musical comedy, is hijacked by Jeffrey Cordova (Jack Buchanan), a pretentious director intent on turning it into a modern day version of Faust. Exacerbating the situation is that Hunter can’t stand Gabrielle Gerard (Cyd Charisse – never lovelier), the ballet dancer hired by Cordova to star opposite him. Sparks fly between Astaire and Charisse both off the dance floor and on, especially during such classic production numbers as “Dancing in the Dark,” “That’s Entertainment” and the film noir influenced “Girl Hunt.”

  • Black Orpheus 1959

    ★★★★ Added

    Prior to the rise of Brazil’s celebrated “Cinema Novo” in the 1960s, the most significant movie produced in Brazil was this contemporary musical adaptation of the Orpheus myth directed by the Frenchman Marcel Camus. Charges of racism and colonialism have occasionally been levied against it (including by some Brazilians who have objected to their culture being portrayed as a non-stop party) but I think that’s an overreaction. For one thing, Camus’ film, which expresses a genuine love and respect for…

  • A Brighter Summer Day 1991

    ★★★★★ Added

    Edward Yang’s four hour epic about juvenile delinquents in 1950s Taipei marries the ambitious societal portraits of the 19th century Russian novel (one gang leader even references War and Peace, memorably calling its characters “swordsmen”) with the romanticism, iconography and intense identification with outsiders characteristic of a Nicholas Ray picture. In other words, the personal story (involving a troubled fourteen year old kid played by Chang Chen) can be seen as an allegory for the identity crisis of an entire…

  • Gertrud 1964

    ★★★★★ Added

    Carl Dreyer’s final film is an adaptation of Hjalmar Soderberg’s 1906 play of the same title and its deceptively theatrical character is also reminiscent of Ibsen (a protoypical feminist heroine) and Strindberg (the eternal conflict between men and women). But there are few films as truly and wonderfully cinematic as Gertrud, whose unique qualities of stillness, slowness and whiteness are perfectly suited to capturing the title character’s near-religious view of romantic love as an uncompromising ideal. A lot of men…