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Posted inFilm

La Bete Humaine

Jean Renoir’s generous sensibility seems at odds with the sterile determinism of the Zola novel on which this 1938 film was based. Jean Gabin is an epileptic train engineer drawn to the stationmaster’s young wife (Simone Simon). The couple murders a man who tried to seduce her; Gabin witnesses the killing and begins an ambiguous […]

Posted inFilm

When You’re In Love

Robert Riskin, Frank Capra’s favorite screenwriter (It Happened One Night), took his only shot at directing with this 1937 vehicle for soprano Grace Moore. She plays an opera star who hires Cary Grant to pose as her husband, in order to protect her from her legions of fans. She also gets to sing “Minnie the […]

Posted inFilm


A strangely warm-hearted Ken Russell movie, portraying the silent star (played by Rudolf Nureyev) as a man of dignity and charm—if not a whole lot of smarts—beset by baroque horrors of the sort that could only arise in a Ken Russell vision of Hollywood. Russell’s supercamp sensibility is not for all tastes, but this is […]

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Alexander the Great

An early (1956) CinemaScope epic by Robert Rossen, more intelligent and more personal than most of the entries in that silly cycle, though hardly feather light. Rossen’s Alexander is an extension of his Huey Long in All the King’s Men, a demagogue riding a shaky wave of power. Richard Burton stars, golden-tressed in his first […]

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Penny Serenade

If you have any tolerance for soap opera, this is one of the classics, a film that does nothing more than what comes naturally to the genre (unlike, say, the melodramas of Borzage and Minnelli), but does it with such patience and responsibility that the cliches really come alive and become partly valid. It’s the […]

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Privates on Parade

John Cleese stars as a stiff-backed major in charge of “SADUSEA”—“Song and Dance Unit, Southeast Asia”—sent to entertain the British troops fighting in Singapore in 1948. Michael Blakemore (Noises Off) directed this farce, which was adapted from a 1977 Royal Shakespeare Company production. With Denis Quilley, Michael Elphick, and Nicola Pagett.