Monthly Archives: May 2014

The Trial of Joan of Arc (1962)

What language does God speak? An omnipotent God speaks them all, from the tiniest Native American dialect all the way up to English, Spanish, and Mandarin. Yet for nationalists of all stripes, God usually has a soft spot in his heart for their own. The Protestant Reformation, a Northern European rebellion against the Vatican, gave […]

Lancelot du Lac (1974)

Lancelot du Lac, a late work by Robert Bresson, is the ugliest, most boring film ever made about the age of chivalry. So why should you watch it? I suppose that the main reason is because it’s by Robert Bresson. If Joe Kowalski from Bayonne New Jersey made Lancelot du Lac, we’d just assume it […]

The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)

Physical pain, or a loss of faith, which is the more terrifying possibility? A torture victim faces both. For a Muslim at Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo Bay, it’s not only about water boarding or the isolation cell. It’s about American soldiers desecrating the Koran or trying to make you look at porn. The American torturers […]

The Devil Probably (1977)

We all know how this will end. Hurricane Sandy hit the richest parts of the Northeast, and the word “global warming” rarely, if ever, came up. Americans will continue to drive their SUVs, even if they have to walk knee deep in flood water through their driveways to get behind the wheel. If given the […]

Blowup (1966)

Blowup, an English language film by Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni, is too cool to have a plot. Its fashion photographer hero, if in fact he can be called the hero, is the type of artist who no longer exists, if he ever existed. It’s a dull movie about thoroughly unlikeable people and a mystery that’s […]

A Dry White Season (1989)

Anybody who’s seen Un Chien Andalou by Luis Buñuel is familiar with the cinematic technique. A black man is being tortured by two white policemen, but we see him only from behind. We hear his screams. The police taunt him in a bored, indifferent way. We know he’s been water boarded, and, perhaps, beaten, but […]

The Godfather I (1972) The Godfather II (1974) The Godfather III (1990)

Along the James River in Virginia, you can find dozens of colonial era plantation houses, a legacy of the British aristocracy transplanted to North America. Dutch patricians founded a very similar type of social order in New York. Newport, Rhode Island was built by Gilded Age money. An estate in the Hamptons recently sold for […]

Rocky (1976) Rocky II (1979)

I think most people have seen Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky. At the very least, we’re all familiar with his iconic Philadelphia boxer, but most of us have never bothered to ask the question of why such a technically mediocre and at times crushingly dull film made $200 million dollars and went on to win Best Picture. […]

United 93 (2006)

Putting aside racist, neoconservative propaganda about “radical Islam,” most of us have tried to understand what happened on 9/11 in one of two ways. There’s fiction, any one of 100 conspiracy theories that get most of the facts wrong, but get the overall narrative right. The system is rigged. There’s non-fiction, the 9/11 Commission Report, […]

The Parallax View (1974) All the President’s Men (1976)

One of my earliest childhood memories involves the Watergate hearings. My father was shopping for a new car battery. We were in the auto-parts store at the Watchung, New Jersey Sears. My mother, my brother and I were in the waiting area. A television was playing. Suddenly a crowd gathered. I stood up. I don’t […]