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The Year of Living Dangerously

Peter Weir’s attempt to make a Casablanca for the 80s—a romance set against a background of exoticism and intrigue—suffers from hazy plotting and a constant, pretentious mystification. The lovers—Mel Gibson as a naive Australian reporter and Sigourney Weaver as an employee of the British embassy, both caught up in the Indonesian political turmoil of 1965—have […]

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The Dresser

Director Peter Yates seems to have decided that the way to make a movie about the theater is to suppress every trace of the cinematic. His 1983 adaptation of Ronald Harwood’s play comes down to a scenery-chomping contest between Albert Finney, as a legendary Shakespearean actor on his last legs, and Tom Courtenay, as the […]

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Pitfall

A grimy, superior film noir by Andre de Toth (1948). Dick Powell is a foursquare family man who enjoys a harmless dalliance with model Lizabeth Scott, unaware that he’s risking the wrath of a psychotically jealous private eye, Raymond Burr. An iconographical plus is Father Knows Best‘s Jane Wyatt as Powell’s patiently beleaguered wife.

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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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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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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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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 […]