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La Balance

Bob Swaim, an American-born director working in France, has crafted a superior policier from a blend of ragged realism and romantic archetypes. Petty criminal Philippe Leotard is persecuted by Parisian narc Richard Berry, who threatens to expose Leotard’s romance with a prostitute (Nathalie Baye)—a relationship forbidden by French law—unless Leotard informs on a major drug […]

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In Like Flint

James Coburn’s second (and final) appearance as superagent Derek Flint finds him fighting to prevent a secret army of women from taking over the world. A palimpsest of 60s anxieties, but not much of a picture. Gordon Douglas directed this 1967 CinemaScope feature; with Lee J. Cobb, Andrew Duggan, and Jean Hale. 114 min.

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Improper Conduct

Written and directed by Cuban exiles Nestor Almendros and Orlando Jimenez-Leal, this documentary amasses a lot of talking-heads testimony to human rights violations by the Castro government. The chief target of oppression seems to be Cuba’s gay population, which proves—if any proof were needed—that Marxism doesn’t cancel out machismo. Though the film is more than […]

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Short Films By Chantal Akerman

Early work by a key figure in modern film (Jeanne Dielmann. . .). Saute ma ville features an 18-year-old Akerman as a young high-rise dweller trying to cope with her domestic duties; La chambre (1972) is a study of light in a New York apartment; Hotel Monterey (1972) is a portrait of a Manhattan welfare […]

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A History of Cinema, Program One

A year-long series on the development of movies as an art form begins with a program on “The Origins of Cinematic Narration.” Among the films to be shown, all shorts, are several “views” created for the Edison Kinetoscope, a selection of the Lumiere brothers’ films, George Melies’ 1902 A Trip to the Moon, and some […]

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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 […]