Discovering good movies, one bad movie at a time

Brink of Life is an overlooked film in Ingmar Bergman’s career, possibly because he later stepped away from it, but it feels to me like a crucial example of his developing career at the end of the 1950s. On top of being, in its own right, a terrific acting showcase, which by this point was […]

The most amusing thing about the 1972 adaptation of Solaris – a film about which very little is amusing, to be fair – is that Andrei Tarkovsky made it, basically, as a “one for them” project. His previous feature, Andrei Rublev, had met with enormous hostility upon delivery, and was shelved for five years; his […]

I wonder, if I didn’t already know that Ivan’s Childhood was possibly my least favorite and certainly the least audacious and ambitious of the seven feature films directed by Andrei Tarkovsky, if I’d be less inclined to nitpick it. Taken solely in the context of the Soviet art cinema of the late 1950s and early […]

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 […]

The learning curve for early sound cinema was steep and fast. In the immediate wake of the enormously popular sync-sound scenes from 1927’s The Jazz Singer, the American film indsutry jumped with great enthusiasm and no planning into making some of the most awkward, unwatchable films of its entire history across the course of 1928, […]

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 […]

Recently, in reviewing the 14-hour La Flor, I suggested that most films that are very, very long achieve their great length in part by trying to make themselves deliberately unpleasant and hard to watch. Here we have a perfect case in point: An Elephant Sitting Still is three hours and 54 minutes long (so let’s […]

There’s only one actually useful thing that art critics can ever do, which is to celebrate the small and underseen, to do whatever it is in our power to make very special work find an audience it otherwise wouldn’t have. In that spirit, I would like to suggest that if you take one piece of […]

The new anti-death penalty film Clemency offers no surprises; some unexpected emphases, maybe, but no surprises. And given what message movies are, and what Oscarbait is, surprises weren’t the point, of course. The only thing we can really hope for is that the execution of the not-surprises will be effective, and in this case, I […]

There is one truly sublime moment in Just Mercy, near the beginning. Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan), a legal intern on the verge of taking the bar, has been sent to meet with Henry (J. Alphonse Nicholson), a young man of about Bryan’s age on death row, to give him the news that there is […]

The Hegelian dialectic is a concept that sometimes gives people trouble (it is also a concept that Hegel did not devise and openly derided, at least its typical formulation), but it’s not that hard to understand. There exists a condition; a thesis. The existence of this condition necessarily triggers its opposite reaction; an antithesis. The […]