Discovering good movies, one bad movie at a time

When I think upon Ingmar Bergman’s cinema, and what most perfectly embodies it, why he is one of my very favorite filmmakers of all time and what are the irreducible components of his style, what I always think of first is Winter Light from 1963. Specifically, I think of the shot of Ingrid Thulin’s face. […]

The quintessential Ingmar Bergman films, to me – the once that most sum up all of his strengths as a film director, his preoccupations as a writer, and his function in the ecosystem of art cinema – are a set of three movies he made in the early 1960s, right when his international visibility was […]

Ingmar Bergman directed two films released in 1960, and despite all the visible evidence, they’re a matched set. The Virgin Spring is a brutal, heavy, cosmically miserable story of murder with one of the most disturbing rape scenes in cinema history up to that point; The Devil’s Eye – our present subject – is an […]

It will always be a little asterisk on the career of director Ingmar Bergman that the film for which he always has been and likely always will be best-known, 1957’s The Seventh Seal, is among the least-characteristic films he ever made. This is, in and of itself, neither good nor bad, nor anything (though it […]

I literally cannot imagine a world where The Seventh Seal didn’t exist. It is, without a trace of hyperbole, one of the works that defines its medium. That there is a thing called “the art film”; that we can, without embarrassment, treat cinema as something that serious intellectuals can and should grapple with; that there […]

My impression is that Stalker, the fifth and final film Andrei Tarkovsky made in the Soviet Union (customarily, one does not think of Soviet artists being allowed to up and leave the country to make movies in the decadent West, but I like to imagine that Goskino was just grateful to see him go), is […]

If there’s a key to cracking Barton Fink, and honestly I’m pretty sure that there isn’t, it might be the simplest bit of production trivia of all. The 1991 film, the fourth written and directed by Joel & Ethan Coen, was written in a brief burst of activity when they were stuck on the labyrinthine […]

Stories disagree on what, exactly, is up with Simon of the Desert. The received wisdom is that the funding got slashed during production, and so director-writer Luis Buñuel had to come up with a way to end the movie on the spot, using the last day to quickly tie things off of what ended up […]

Diary of a Country Priest, from 1951, was the third feature film directed by French director Robert Bresson, and it is the hinge on which his entire career pivots. Prior to this point, he made the kind of films people were making in France in the ’40s: solemn melodramas for respectable middle class audiences who […]

It says something – and as a contented old atheist, I hardly know if I’m in a position to say what, but it’s something – that The Last Temptation of Christ could have the theologically promiscuous fatherhood of an Italian Catholic director working from a screenplay that a Calvinist writer adapted from a 1955 novel […]

What is cinema? We can speak of its technical aspects: cinema is a medium in which still images (often, but not always photographic in nature) are shown at a fast enough rate to create the illusion of movement. Cinema is a medium of montage, in which the creator shows the viewer a single image followed […]