Monthly Archives: July 2014

Lucy (2014)

I suppose the best way to write about my having seen Lucy would be as a warning about the dangers of conformism, my own. I’m riding my bike home from the park. At home, on my desk, are Cheyenne Autumn by John Ford, Ludwig, by Luchino Visconti, and Lawrence Olivier’s Hamlet. I have a Spanish […]

Sergeant Rutledge (1960)

That Sergeant Rutledge somehow manages to be both anti-racist and pro-genocide testifies not only to John Ford’s myopia about the Plains Indians, but to his genius. Even in his old age, he still had his finger on the pulse of the American people. There was no American Indian Movement in 1960. The occupation of Alcatraz […]

The Blue Max (1966)

The Blue Max is a big budget war movie with sub-par acting, gorgeous cinematography, magnificent stunt flying, and a bloated, B-movie script that ultimately works as a left-wing critique of neoliberalism. I can understand why it was panned by the critics when it first came out in 1966. With so many British actors speaking in […]

Rocco and his Brothers (1960)

Rocco and his Brothers is a sociological examination of what happens to a rural, southern Italian family when they move to the industrial north that ultimately rejects sociological and economic explanations for human behavior in favor of the idea that character is destiny. In what’s widely considered to be one of cinema’s greatest films, Luchino […]

The Damned (1969): The German Ruling Class Goes to Hell

As the credits open Luchino Visconti’s anti-fascist classic The Damned, we are told that “no resemblance to actual events is intended.” Whether Visconti was afraid of lawsuits or he intended the disclaimer as a joke, it’s nonsense. The von Essenbecks are the Krupps, the notorious family of Rhineland industrialists and arms merchants who made an […]

Death In Venice (1971): Homosexuality and the Artifice of Eternity

Luchino Visconti’s film version of Thomas Mann’s novella has been criticized for taking too many liberties with the original. But I think the film is underrated. Visconti, an out gay man, made a strong artistic choice — to play up the story’s homoerotic subtext at the expense of its classical, aesthetic subtext — and stuck […]

Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999)

Jim Jarmusch’s seventh feature length film, an homage to Jean-Pierre Melville’s classic Le Samoura├», is a beautifully filmed meditation on race and social isolation. Quiet, nuanced, aesthetically rich, it’s a work of art that demands to be seen multiple times, an object to be contemplated from a variety of different angles as though it were […]

We Were Soldiers (2002): The Neoconservative Right Does Vietnam

If I avoided seeing We Were Soldiers for years, I think it had something to do with how I used to see posters for the film when I photographed Swift Boat Veterans for Truth rallies in Washington DC in 2004. While I enjoyed Braveheart, I could never quite bring myself to go see a movie […]

Aguirre The Wrath Of God (1972)

While it’s tempting to call Aguirre The Wrath Of God a great film about the Vietnam War that never mentions Vietnam, it’s probably safer just to say that it’s a deeper, more original adaptation of Heart of Darkness than Apocalypse Now. For 1/100th the price — $300,000 to Apocalypse Now’s $30,000,000 —- Werner Herzog’s masterpiece […]

The Deer Hunter (1978)

Three quarters of the way through The Deer Hunter, Michael Cimino’s iconic, and very long, film about three Pennsylvania steel workers in Vietnam, Mike Vronsky, Robert Deniro, returns home on leave, and meets Linda, the fiancee of his best friend Nick Chevotarevich. Chevotarevich, a young Christopher Walken, is still missing in action, but it’s clear […]