Banks, Bergman, Hamilton, Limon, Polanski

1971 (Johanna Hamilton, 2014). Clearly positioned as a history lesson for those who venerate Edward Snowden for his digital freedom fighting in bringing to light information about the U.S. government’s shady spying on its own citizens, 1971 focuses in on a break-in at a Pennsylvania FBI office in the year of the title. Those who are shocked by the modern transgressions against privacy can watch this documentary for a bracing reminder that federal crime-fighting agencies are in full-scale same-as-it-ever-was territory, Patriot Act or not. Of course, that doesn’t make current abuses acceptable, but the indignation is best shaped as part of … Continue reading Banks, Bergman, Hamilton, Limon, Polanski

Top Fifty Films of the 60s — Number Nineteen

#19 — Repulsion (Roman Polanski, 1965) Repulsion is the first film in what is loosely termed as director Roman Polanski’s “apartment trilogy,” a series that continued with 1968’s Rosemary’s Baby and culminated with The Tenant, release in 1976. Connecting the film to the sort of dwelling in question couldn’t be more fitting in the case of Repulsion, as the bulk of the film takes place within the enveloping horror of the small apartment manicurist Carol Ledoux (Catherine Deneuve) shares with her sister (Yvonne Furneaux). When her sister leaves for a vacation, Carol is left alone, and her already troubled behavior … Continue reading Top Fifty Films of the 60s — Number Nineteen

Top Fifty Films of the 70s — Number One

#1 — Chinatown (Roman Polanski, 1974) According to Robert Towne, it was a vice cop who gave him the title Chinatown and the backstory of cynicism it conveys. He asked the officer what he did when he was stationed in Chinatown, and the man answered, “As little as possible,” an exchange that was eventually carried almost intact onto the screen. There were so many dueling dialects at play among the complicated gang alliances and conflicts, that it was extremely difficult for the police to sort out what was going on. The men on the force often didn’t know if their … Continue reading Top Fifty Films of the 70s — Number One

Brooks, Hansen-Løve, Noyce, Polanski, Teshigahara

The Quiet American (Phillip Noyce, 2002). Occasionally there will be a movie that adheres to a classic narrative structure that is also stolid, humorless and painfully dull that a small but vocal bundle of critics will tout as a dwindling example of cinematic material created for adults. I get that full-time critics were spending the end of 2002 gritting their teeth and covering their eyes while watching supposed comedies and franchise-killing sequels, but they still needed to grade on a helluva curve to find nice things to say about this dire adaptation of the Graham Greene novel. Michael Caine received … Continue reading Brooks, Hansen-Løve, Noyce, Polanski, Teshigahara

Eastwood, Polanski, Rosenberg, Siodmak, Wyatt

Hereafter (Clint Eastwood, 2010). Clint Eastwood will often dismiss anyone trying to read too much subtext of grand personal artistic statement in his films. They’re just pictures to the steely-eyed director. Certainly this ponderous rumination of mortality holds no added passion or weight that might be expected from a guy entering into his eighties and, therefore, maybe a little interested in considering what might be out there beyond this mortal coil. Instead Eastwood plods through a notably facile script from Peter Morgan bringing together multiple story threads in ways that would strain credulity to breaking if they weren’t so completely … Continue reading Eastwood, Polanski, Rosenberg, Siodmak, Wyatt

Audiard, Curtiz, Elliot, Polanski, Vaughn

Mary and Max (Adam Elliot, 2009). A beautifully downbeat stop-motion animation feature about unlikely penpals on the opposite side of the Atlantic who correspond over a number of years, developing a moving, warm, fragile and occasionally fractured relationship. Despite the distance–or, arguably, because of it–they drawn strength and even courage from one another, muddling through the unique challenges of their respective lives in part because they’ve got a lifeline out there somewhere in the world, someone who may not understand them, but at least takes the time to try. Max, voiced by Philip Seymour Hoffman, is an especially wonderful creation, … Continue reading Audiard, Curtiz, Elliot, Polanski, Vaughn