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Wuthering Heights

The Emily Bronte novel was a favorite among the surrealists for its treatment of obsessive love, and Luis Buñuel originally planned to film it in the 30s (from a screenplay by poet Pierre Unik). Those plans fell through, but Buñuel returned to the project in 1953, during his sojourn in the Mexican commercial cinema. It’s […]

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Diary of a Lost Girl

G.W. Pabst’s 1929 follow-up to his notorious Pandora’s Box, again with the American starlet Louise Brooks, though this time as sexual victim rather than predator. The daughter of a pharmacist, she is seduced by a shop assistant and launched on a series of humiliations, which include bearing a baby out of wedlock, a term in […]

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The Natural

I’ve just about had it with directors who use the mythic mode as an alibi for unshaded characterizations, simpleminded plotting, and swells of artificial emotionality. Barry Levinson’s 1984 film preserves the Arthurian imagery of Bernard Malamud’s baseball novel while stripping away all its darkness and irony; what’s left is a sappy tale of youthful purity […]

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The Lower Depths

Based on Gorky’s play, this is definitely not Jean Renoir’s greatest film; it seems cramped and tenuous (1936). Still, it carries some interest in its curious blend of tones and styles—it oscillates between vaudeville turns and stark tragedy. The cast, not distinguished, includes Jean Gabin, Louis Jouvet, and Vladimir Sokolov.

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She Married Her Boss

Not as bright as the best of Gregory La Cava’s improvisational comedies (My Man Godfrey, Stage Door), this 1935 effort still features some memorable moments (in a department store window) and a moving, melancholic subtext. Claudette Colbert, livelier than usual, is an executive secretary who marries her employer (Melvyn Douglas), only to find their relationship […]

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The Human Comedy

Not the best example of director Clarence Brown’s work, this 1943 film is nevertheless faithful to William Saroyan’s achingly sentimental novel about a boy’s awakening maturity in the midst of war. If you can stand a teenage Mickey Rooney for nearly two hours, you’ll find it a solid piece of Americana. With Frank Morgan, Marsha […]