• Prime Cut

    Prime Cut

    ★★★½

    Add this to my list of favorite 1970 films. It's a Chicago gang story (some great Chicago scenes in the first few minutes) but set mostly in Kansas cattle slaughterhouses and meatpacking plants. Some of the footage of the slaughterhouse is brutally amazing and other scenes (such as the young girls in animal pens available for "rental") might not make it past the cutting room today. One of the best bits of filming is a crazy wheatfield chase where a…

  • Elle

    Elle

    ★★½

    This French film directed by Paul Verhoeven stars the magnificent actor Isabelle Huppert, who often plays women in dicey situations (as in Ma Mere and The Piano Teacher). Her performance here is fine as the highly sexualized and manipulative business executive. To me this was a troubling film at times with some violent scenes of sexual assault.

  • Miss Hokusai

    Miss Hokusai

    ★★★★

    This beautiful Japanese anime film is set in 19th century Edo, before the city was named Tokyo. It’s an historical film, adapted from a manga series, about the daughter of a famous artist. The plot is kind of episodic and there’s not very much character development, but the film is beautifully drawn and every aspect of it is perfect, including the sound.

  • Two Trains Runnin'

    Two Trains Runnin'

    ★★★½

    This is a road documentary, directed by Sam Pollard, about two efforts in 1963-64 Mississippi. One is the freedom riders movement and the effort to register voters in Mississippi, which ended in violence and tragedy. The other is the search by two separate teams for a couple of old-time delta blues performers–Son House and Skip James. The film’s structure and storyline are straightforward, but the use of animation to show scenes where footage is not available is a nice touch.…

  • Sieranevada

    Sieranevada

    ★★★½

    This is a Romanian film, directed by Cristii Puiu, and takes place almost entirely in a dark, crowded apartment in Bucharest, where a family celebrates the life of the deceased patriarch. The apartment has many rooms, opening on to a dark, central hall. People go in and out, doors open and close, conversations start and stop, in a realistic way throughout the three-hour film, which feels as if it’s filmed in real time. Various secrets emerge of family members’ pasts…

  • American Anarchist

    American Anarchist

    ★★★

    This interesting documentary, directed by Charlie Siskel, is the story of William Powell, the man who wrote and published The Anarchist Cookbook at the age of 19 in 1970. Although Powell says the book is distributed without any effort on his part, it’s still used today by radicals and terrorists because of its detailed instructions on how to make bombs or how to turn a shotgun into a grenade launcher. Siskel interviews Powell, who was 65 at the time of…

  • Paterson

    Paterson

    ★★★★★

    I have always loved the cool and quirky plots and characters in Jarmusch films, as in Stranger Than Paradise, Down by Law and Mystery Train. But some of his recent films–including Paterson–are a little different. Paterson, written and directed by Jarmusch, is set in Paterson, New Jersey, and it’s the name of the leading character, the bus driver/poet, played superbly by Adam Driver. The city of Paterson is also a character; we become acquainted with it as Paterson walks to…

  • Gimme Danger

    Gimme Danger

    ★★★★

    This is the first Jarmusch documentary I’ve seen and it’s masterful. We meet Jim Osterberg, aka Iggy Pop, as an older, wry, self-reflective guy who meanders fondly through his childhood, growing up in Ann Arbor, and his punk rock past. Between the MC5 and the Stooges, the Detroit area was considered the epicenter of punk rock in the 1970s. The Iggy interviews are the main thread of the film, but it’s laced with elements of the script scrawled on the…

  • The Holy Mountain

    The Holy Mountain

    ★★★

    This silent film (renovated and remastered in 2002 with new score) is notable for its mountain cinematography, not for its silly love triangle plot. It's also notable as the first film appearance of Leni Riefenstahl, later known as Hitler's favorite filmmaker (Triumph of the Will, 1935). Here she plays Diotima, a dancer and the love interest of two men.

    Director Arnold Fanck, part of the German expressionist film movement, always shot on location. The mountain scenes, especially the nighttime scenes…

  • The General

    The General

    ★★★½

    I think The General (78 minutes) is the best of Keaton's films. The film (adapted from a book titled The Great Locomotive Chase by William Pittenger) is set in the South during the Civil War and Keaton is Johnnie Gray, a railroad engineer in love with Annabelle Lee. He wants to enlist, but is rejected, and ends up being a daring hero as the engineer of the Confederate train (titled General) that helps prevent the Northern Army’s supply trains from…

  • High Fidelity

    High Fidelity

    ★★★★★

    I have watched this film more times than I can count. Why do I love it? Well, first of all, it's set in Chicago and takes full advantage of real neighborhood scenes. Rob's record store is at the corner of Milwaukee and Honore in Wicker Park, when it looked much seedier than it does today.. L tracks, the Biograph, Lounge Ax, coffee shops. Rob's scene on the Kinzie Street bridge. But mostly I love it because Bruce Springsteen appears to play some chords and advise Rob. You can catch Bruce at :43. Love it.

  • Night on Earth

    Night on Earth

    ★★★★

    This is one of those “anthology” movies, where we get to share taxi rides with five different drivers and five different passengers in five cities — Los Angeles, New York, Paris, Rome and Helsinki — over the course of one night. Each segment takes us on a real-time tour of that city, unvarnished. There's always a clock involved to position the story in the night. The cinematography is beautiful and there are some great surprises. Like Roberto Benigni talking (and…