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The President’s Analyst

The 60s school of improvisational comedy is beautifully preserved in Theodore J. Flicker’s film, which pits LBJ’s shrink (James Coburn) against a plot for world dominance hatched by TPC (The Phone Company). The vague, shapeless paranoia of the period—a liberal distrust, rather than a radical disgust—is well conveyed through a series of barely connected skits, […]

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The Turning Point

Herbert Ross continues the venerable tradition of butting ballet and melodrama in a story of two old rivals (Shirley MacLaine and Anne Bancroft) squabbling over the artistic soul of MacLaine’s daughter (Leslie Browne). The musical question, as always (cf The Red Shoes), is whether to dance or to love. For a film ostensibly dedicated to […]

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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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Next Stop, Greenwich Village

Paul Mazursky’s onanistic autobiographical film (1976) seems more like a slavish hommage to Federico Fellini than a genuine reminiscence, borrowing equally from the Great Italian’s condescending caricature and slimy sentimentalism. As Larry Lapinsky, a Brooklyn boy come to the Village to learn acting, Lenny Baker spends most of the film fighting off his mother’s slobbering […]

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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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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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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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Mother

The force of this famous 1926 Russian silent is more mechanical than emotional, centered in the flashy, rhythmic montage techniques of director V.I. Pudovkin rather than in the development of his deliberately stereotypical characters. During the 1905 revolution, a mother (Vera Baranovskaya) hoping to protect her communist son (Nikolai Batalov) reveals the cache of arms […]