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Love Is Strange

The emotions unleashed by "Love Is Strange" are enormous. It is a patient and, ultimately, transcendent film.

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The Expendables 3

If you’re over 40, this is your “The Avengers.” As slavishly devoted to the old action films of Sly and company as any Marvel Universe…

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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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Cast and Crew

* This filmography is not intended to be a comprehensive list of this artist’s work. Instead it reflects the films this person has been involved with that have been reviewed on this site.

Atom Egoyan's erotic melodrama

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Atom Egoyan often makes erotic melodramas. There was a time when audiences perked up at the prospect of, oh, you know, sex and nudity and stuff, but these days moviegoers seem strangely neutered. They'd rather look at fighting machines or 3-D animals. They like their porn the way it's presented on the Net, wham-bam, thank you, man. The notion of erotic tension uncoiling within the minds of characters and unfolding languidly in sensuous photography is, I dunno, too artistic.

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When a movie hurts too much

The blog entry "In Search of Redemption" inspired an outpouring of reader comments remarkable not only for their number but for their intelligence and thought. It became obvious that many of us go to the movies seeking some sort of release or healing. Many of you mentioned titles that especially affected you; two of my most-admired films, "Hoop Dreams" and "Grave of the Fireflies," were frequently listed. You all had your reasons. Now Ali Arikan, a longtime contributor to this site, has written me about why he was so affected by a relatively unlikely title, "The Out-Of-Towners" (1999). His reasons were personal; he can post them below if he chooses to. But in connection with his explanation, he quoted the first paragraph of one of my reviews.

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Close-Ups: A free-association dream sequence

View image Marlene Dietrich, "The Scarlet Empress" (Josef von Sternberg, 1935). A pivotal moment of (re-) birth after providing her country with a male heir -- though not one fathered by her husband, royal half-wit Grand Duke Peter.

View image "Scarlet Empress": "... one of those extraordinary women who create their own laws and logic..." Beds, dreams, filters.

Memory starts one image pinging off others across time and movies. Ruminating upon the Close-Up Blog-a-thon at the House Next Door (which, obviously, I can't stop doing), I see close-ups flowing into and out of one another, dreams within dreams within nightmares, on themes of memory, loss, identity, the process of consciousness and the end of consciousness -- you know, the stuff movies are made of.

View image "Once Upon a Time in the West" (Sergio Leone, 1968): Mrs. Jill McBain (Claudia Cardinale) arrives in Sweetwater to find her family slaughtered. After the funeral, she is alone in a big bed in a small room in a vast new land.

View image Final shot, "Once Upon a Time in America" (Sergio Leone, 1984): David "Noodles" Aaronson flops down in an opium den to smoke away his pain and drifts off into a narcotic dream...

In the Godardian spirit of making a movie as a critique/analysis of other movies, here's a free-association visual essay/commentary on close-ups (with inserts, jump cuts, switchbacks, flashbacks, flash-forwards...) that got synapses firing in my brain as I flipped through shots in my memory -- and my DVD collection. Looking back, most of them seem to be filtered, obscured, freeze-framed or reflected faces of characters reaching an impasse or a reckoning -- largely from the endings of some of my favorite movies. I wish I could actually cut the film together, so that I could show them in motion, control how long each shot remains on the screen and fiddle with the rhythms (flash cuts, match cuts, reversals of motion), but I don't know have the technology or the know-how for that at the moment. So, imagine this as a (sometimes perverse) little movie, a "found footage" montage sequence... Kuleshovian, Rorschachian, Hitcockian, Gestaltian, however you want to look at it. I suppose it's also a look in the mirror.

Hope you can see the associations, juxtapositions, oppositions, contradictions I was going for, although I'm not sure I consciously understand all the leaps myself. They just flowed together this way. Feel free to make your own connections. (And, of course, be aware that you may find spoilers surfacing. With a broadband connection all 38 enlarge-able images should load in about 10 seconds.)

View image Final shot, "McCabe & Mrs. Miller" (Robert Altman, 1971): The camera moves in on Mrs. Miller (Julie Christie), in an opium den while snow drifts outside.

View image Flash cut to final shot of "Petulia" (Richard Lester, 1968): Petulia (Julie Christie), in labor, feels the hand of someone (husband? lover? doctor?) on her cheek just before she blacks out under anaesthesia.

View image Flash cut to final close-up, "Le Boucher" (Claude Chabrol, 1970): Drained and devastated after a long and harrowing night-trip to the hospital, Helene (Stephane Audran) drives herself to a dead end and stares across the impassible river in the cold light of dawn.

View image Flash cut to final freeze-frame close-up, "The 400 Blows" (by Chabrol's New Wave compatriot, Francois Truffaut, 1959): Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Leaud) reaches the ocean at the edge of the continent. Where to go from here?

View image Flash cut to final moment of final shot: "Nights of Cabiria" (1957) (Federico Fellini): Cabiria (Giulietta Masina) pulls herself together, puts her game face on, looks into the camera and smiles through tears in a tender moment of quiet triumph. Another of the most famous movie-ending close-ups.

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Mourning (and assessing) Bergman

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Some of the best things I've read about Ingmar Bergman's place in cinema, written since his death (UPDATED 8/01/07):

E-mails to Roger Ebert from filmmakers and writers including David Mamet, Paul Schrader, Sally Potter, Haskell Wexler, Paul Theroux, Richard Linklater, Gregory Nava, Studs Terkel, David Bordwell, David Gordon Green, Paul Cox...

Gregory Nava: This was not the escapist fare of Hollywood, or the pat spirituality of Biblical epic films where God spoke in hallowed tones from a burning bush. With Bergman, God was a spider that lived in the upstairs closet! A shocking and necessary jolt to my Catholic sensibilities. Yes, these films changed me forever -- they cemented my dream to become a filmmaker because if film could do this -- then surely it was the greatest art form of our time. I will never forget the first time I saw the horses standing in the surf against a setting sun, and death with his black cape raised approaching the world-weary knight. "I hope I never get so old I get religious." -- Ingmar Bergman

Peter Rainer, Los Angeles Times: He worked out of his deepest passions and, for many of us, this made the experience of watching his films seem almost surgically invasive. He pulled us into his secret torments. Looking at "The Seventh Seal" or "Persona" or "Cries and Whispers," it's easy to imagine that Bergman, who died Monday, was the most private of film artists, and yet, no matter how far removed the circumstances of his life may have been from ours, he made his anguish our own.

Another way to put this is that Bergman -- despite the high-toned metaphysics that overlays many, though not all, of his greatest films -- was a showman first and a Deep Thinker second. His philosophical odysseys might have been epoxied to matters of Life and Death, of God and Man, but this most sophisticated of filmmakers had an inherently childlike core. He wanted to startle us as he himself had been startled. He wanted us to feel his terrors in our bones. A case could be made that Bergman was, in the most voluminous sense, the greatest of all horror movie directors.

"If Jesus came back and saw what's going on in his name, he'd never stop throwing up!" -- Bergman actor Max von Sydow, in Woody Allen's "Hannah and Her Sisters"

View image Woody Allen's "Love and Death": A Bergman (and Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy...) parody from someone who loved Bergman.

Roger Ebert, RogerEbert.com: What he saw as God’s refusal to intervene in the suffering on earth was the subject of his 1961-63 Silence of God Trilogy, “Through a Glass Darkly,” “Winter Light” (a pitiless film in which a clergyman torments himself about the possibility of nuclear annihilation) and “The Silence.” In his masterpiece “Persona,” (1967), an actress (Liv Ullmann) sees a television image of a monk burning himself in Vietnam, and she stops speaking. Sent to a country retreat with a nurse (Bibi Andersson), she works a speechless alchemy on her, leading to a striking image when their two faces seem to blend.

So great was the tension in that film that Bergman made it appear to catch in the projector and burn. Then, from a black screen, the film slowly rebuilt itself, beginning with crude images from the first days of the cinema. These images were suggested by a child’s cinematograph which his brother received as a present; so envious was Ingmar that he traded his brother for it, giving up his precious horde of 100 tin soldiers.

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Cannes all winners

The Festival International du Film, held annually in Cannes, France, has become the world's most prestigious film festival—the spot on the beach where the newest films from the world's top directors compete for both publicity and awards.

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Liv Ullmann, Face to Face

It is a sunny day in Stockholm, two years ago in May. Ingmar Bergman is in residence at Film House, shooting “Face to Face.” Silence reigns, as it always does when Bergman works: “No other director in the world has such quiet sets,” Liv Ullmann writes in her notebook. She sits in her tiny dressing room, wearing an old white muslin shirt and a full cotton skirt. Her feet are tucked beneath her.

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On the set with Ingmar Bergman

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Stockholm, 1975 -- When he is in Stockholm, Ingmar Bergman lives in a new apartment complex called Karlapan. It's comfortable, not ostentatious; Bergman doesn't often have friends in because he considers it not a home but a dormitory to sleep in while he's making a film. His wife Ingrid prepares meals there, but if the Bergmans entertain it is more likely to be at his customary table in the Theater Grill, a stately restaurant directly across the street from the back door of the Royal Dramatic Theater. The table is not easily found, or seen; it is behind a large mirrored post, so that Bergman, who can see everyone in the room, is all but invisible.

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