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  • The Flowers of St. Francis

  • Sergeant Rutledge

  • A Separation

  • Vortex

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  • The Flowers of St. Francis

    The Flowers of St. Francis

    The Flowers of St. Francis. It doesn’t gratify me often: there are a lot of scenes about the Franciscans’ love of everything, not much perspective on their childlike natures. (The most childlike and foolish of the monks gets a disproportionate amount of screen time, which shows where Rossellini’s interest lay.) The scene that most moved me was of Francis repeatedly embracing the leper, who doesn’t respond to the gesture: it implies the man’s pain and shows our inability to share…

  • Sergeant Rutledge

    Sergeant Rutledge

    Sergeant Rutledge. The film leads with Ford’s less appealing routines - the Hunter/Towers romance; the silly ladies in the courtroom - and then hits with a great scene, the shooting of the Apaches at the deserted train station. With Ford the holding context often overrides the particulars: for instance, in the way that goofy characters suddenly step up to embody the film’s dignity. On the whole, the handling of the race theme is pretty good, tied as it is to…

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  • The Searchers

    The Searchers

    The Searchers. The critical spirit falters before the task of doing justice to John Ford’s 1956 magnum opus, one of those mysterious films that surpasses even what a great director should have been able to achieve. At first remove, The Searchers, the story of a quest to rescue a kidnapped girl from the Comanches, is about the emotional life of the adventurer, the hardened outsider, even the sociopath -- and no one who responds to John Wayne’s chilling performance as…

  • Back Street

    Back Street

    Back Street. From the beginning, total formal control, with icy tracking shots and closeups, scene transitions suspended in the emptiness of the last completed gesture, crowds, weather, everything one associates with mature Stahl. The story is classic Fannie Hurst, with a huge painful contrived coincidence ruining Dunne's life, and love as an immutable sentence condemning the heroine. Stahl and the writers push all of it to extremes: Boles in the middle section is hatefully selfish, and Stahl gazes at his…