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  • Applause

    Applause

    ★★★★½

    I knew Applause had the reputation of being one of the best sound films of the 20s, but I could not have expected Mamoulian's expertise with the roaming camera (to my mind, the film's greater achievement). Where the entrance of sound seems to signal a further turn towards the total cinema, Mamoulian's camera is an active antagonist to any simple unity, seeking fragments rather than wholes. We learn this from the first major movement in the concert hall: we begin…

  • Ingeborg Holm

    Ingeborg Holm

    If, as I have previously argued in my response to The Outlaw and His Wife, the natural world is indeed the space in which Sjöström's characters are intended to experiment with freedom of action (though, often, only a potential freedom - in both The Outlaw and A Man There Was, meaningful emancipation never results), then it is appropriate that this, the most urban of his work that I've seen to date, is equally the most claustrophobic with respect to the…

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  • Silence

    Silence

    ★½

    If there's any one thing I truly hate about the West, it's how it always positions itself as the advocate of "free choice" in the face of a totalitarian Other. Countless times, this excuse has been used as a justification for overwhelmingly imperialist action, a sort of ideological bait-and-switch where "freedom" necessarily makes non-Western culture inferior and non-Westerners subordinate to the hegemony of the West.

    I might compare Silence to White Material, in the sense that both are essentially colonist…

  • Close-Up

    Close-Up

    ★★★★★

    Like Birth of a Nation or Breathless before it, Kiarostami's Close-Up is an easy film to take for granted, as the further we get from its original release, the less novel it may appear to be. However, it is also like those two films in that its significance in cinematic history cannot - and should not - be understated. Close-Up is one of the handful of films who have fundamentally reshaped our relationship to the medium. Its legacy is especially…