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Kameradschaft

G.W. Pabst’s 1931 film recasts an actual incident—a mine disaster on the Franco-German border in 1906—into a parable on international relations; the “little people” transcend their political differences in helping each other. It may be naive and sentimental, but Pabst’s filming packs a punch—the action is well-nigh irresistible. The pessimistic ending, in which the boundaries […]

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Faust

A brilliant example (1926) of the baroque style by F.W. Murnau. Gösta Ekman is the man who sells his soul, and the buyer is magnificently incarnated by Emil Jannings. As atmospheric and menacing a work as the expressionist movement ever produced.

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The Human Factor

This rigorous, compelling, radically stylized film represents the end point in a line of development that Otto Preminger had been pursuing since the late 60s. The prime qualities of Preminger’s mise-en-scene—logic, dispassion, distance—here reach their apotheosis in a ruthlessly flat, unruffled presentation: a visual and narrative style carefully designed only to express its own inexpressiveness. […]

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Kiss Me, Stupid

Billy Wilder’s ironic 1964 tale of a one-night exchange of partners, a cuckolded husband who is none the wiser and three others who are none the worse off for it. Damned at the time for being “dirty,” Wilder’s film is (according to the maestro himself) about the theme of human dignity and the sanctity of […]

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Bedtime for Bonzo

A dim sitcom of the kind Universal turned out by the dozens in the early 50s, distinguished—if that’s the word—by the presence of Ronald Reagan, as a college professor who hopes to prove his theories of child development by bringing up a chimpanzee as a human baby. The film is never quite as bad as […]

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Get Carter

Michael Caine stars as Carter, a London hood returning to his home in Newcastle to clear up some family unpleasantness in this 1971 feature. Directed by Michael Hodges (whose later collaboration with Caine, Pulp, proved to be much more satisfactory), with a flair for the wry evocation of genre conventions. Harold Pinter appears as a […]

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After the Rehearsal

Ingmar Bergman’s 70-minute TV film (1984) is an afterword to Fanny and Alexander, an examination of the impressions and emotions that linger after the story is over, taking the form of three monologues (an elderly director, a young actress, the director’s alcoholic ex-star and ex-lover) and a concluding duet. The film is awful where Bergman […]

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Coney Island

A turn-of-the-century musical with Betty Grable as a sideshow thrush. Walter Lang, the forgotten stalwart of 20th Century-Fox, directs in his patient, anonymous style. It’s a typical Grable vehicle, and mainly for her fans, but the allure of 40s Technicolor is always irresistible. With George Montgomery, Cesar Romero, and Phil Silvers (1943). (DK).