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The Farewell Party

High drama and lowbrow, morbid humor get stitched together in this successful tragicomedy about terminal patients and assisted suicide. Works better than expected.

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Sunshine Superman

I found Jean Boenish’s philosophical musings less than persuasive. And I don’t think my fear of heights was the reason for my bias.

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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

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The helpful Robert Benchley

Once long ago, when theaters were not so obsessed with turning over their audiences, a feature film might be accompanied by a cartoon, a newsreel, and a Selected Short Subject.

The short might be a Robert Benchley lecture. At the time such shorts were enormously popular; a little murmur of anticipation might run through the audience. In Benchley's case they fit nicely with his writing career for The New Yorker.

Benchley became so popular that he sometimes made guest appearances in featur films, sich as "The Sky's the Limit" (1943) with Fred Astaire and Joan Leslie:

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