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  • The Last Laugh

    The Last Laugh

    The 1924 film in which F.W. Murnau freed his camera from its stationary tripod and took it on a flight of imagination and expression that changed the way movies were made. Cameras had tracked and panned before, but never to such a deliberate and spectacular degree. Emil Jannings is the hotel doorman whose life is ruined when he is shunted to semiretirement as a lavatory attendant and his beautiful uniform is taken away from him. The film was a great…

  • The Last Hurrah

    The Last Hurrah

    John Ford's 1958 film looks like a family wake, only it isn't his family that he's invited. As the familiar faces glide past—Spencer Tracy, Pat O'Brien, Basil Rathbone, Edward Brophy, James Gleason, Ricardo Cortez, Wallace Ford, Frank McHugh—all at or near the end of their careers, it feels as if Ford is holding a funeral for a lost Hollywood. But it isn't his Hollywood; these aren't his people—which may account for the film's strangely cool, distanced tone. Edwin O'Connor's novel,…

  • The Last House on the Left

    The Last House on the Left

    Ruthless, poundingly violent horror film (1972), directed by Wes Craven. It isn't artistically adroit, but if success in this genre is counted by squirms, it's a success. R, 85 min.

  • The Last Flight

    The Last Flight

    Further clues to the mystery of William (Wilhelm) Dieterle, who acted for Murnau in the 20s and became a director for Warner Brothers in the 30s. The Last Flight (1932) was his first American film, the story of four World War I pilots tenuously returning to society. Dieterle would later be responsible for some of Warners' most sluggish “prestige” pictures—The Life of Emile Zola, Juarez—but there may be some vigor in his early career. 80 min.

  • The Last Battle

    The Last Battle

    Director Luc Besson once worked for the French edition of the comic book Heavy Metal, and the visual style of his low-budget debut film retains the most striking features of la bande dessinee: his black-and-white widescreen compositions are animated by a tremendous spatial dynamism and a lightness and efficiency of line that suggests ink on paper. The plotting is standard stuff (a rugged survivor of a nuclear war goes in search of a mate among the ruins of a capital…

  • Lassie Come Home

    Lassie Come Home

    The classic 1943 canine weepie about a collie who crosses most of Britain to return to the little boy who loves her. With Roddy McDowall, Elizabeth Taylor, Donald Crisp, Edmund Gwenn, Dame May Whitty, Nigel Bruce, and Elsa Lanchester; Fred M. Wilcox, later of Forbidden Planet, directed.

  • The Landlord

    The Landlord

    Liberal guilt, with a few good laughs, a lot of frantic activity, and the occasional backfire. Beau Bridges is pale and befuddled (appropriately) as a rich kid who acquires a slum building and decides to move in. This 1970 feature was the directorial debut of Hal Ashby (Harold and Maude, Shampoo, Coming Home, Being There), and for a first effort it isn't that bad. With Lee Grant, Diana Sands, and Pearl Bailey.

  • Land of Silence and Darkness

    Land of Silence and Darkness

    As a rule, Werner Herzog's documentaries are more unearthly than his fictions. This 1971 study of Germany's deaf-and-dumb population presents its subjects as a privileged class with access to an alternate reality. Herzog shuns the expected tone of social-worker condescension in favor of mystic's awe. A remarkable, unaccountable film, both cold and moving.

  • The Promised Land

    The Promised Land

    Andrzej Wajda's epic study of the industrialization of Poland, seen through the story of three partners in a textile mill. Adapted from a novel by Wiedislaw Reymont, it walked off with the grand prize at the 1976 Chicago Film Festival despite a fairly strong subtext of anti-Semitism. Too long and too much.

  • The Land

    The Land

    The great documentarist Robert Flaherty (Nanook of the North, Moana) created this study of life in the Depression dust bowl for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which promptly repressed it. Flaherty wanders far afield from the social programs that were his assigned subject, concentrating on the suffering of migrant workers and the apparent hopelessness of their position. Moving, even majestic, it remains a remarkable film, if not one of Flaherty's best.

  • Lancelot of the Lake

    Lancelot of the Lake

    Robert Bresson's telling of the King Arthur legend begins where most versions end, describing a Camelot of fading glory, where the ideals of chivalry and spiritual purity are threatened by a modern, pragmatic mentality. The rhythms of this grave, spare film are slow and irresistible, the images closely cropped and full of inexpressible portent. Released in 1974, it belongs with Pickpocket and Au hasard Balthazar at the highest level of Bresson's achievement.

  • Lamb

    Lamb

    Colin Gregg's film (1985) is all worked up about the possibilities (dim) for goodness in an evil, corrupt world, yet the champion he gives us—a Catholic religious brother (Liam Neeson) who runs away with one of the boys from the reformatory where he works, opening himself up to kidnapping charges—is so moronically impulsive that we cease to wonder early on why there aren't any contemporary saints; evidently they're too dumb to live. Gregg dawdles endlessly over the allegedly touching relationship…