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Ouija: Origin of Evil

By the time it gets to the Polish-speaking ghosts and the ghoulish Nazi doctor, you’re so invested in the characters that you’re willing to buy…


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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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* 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.

#97 January 11, 2012

Marie writes: I have no words. Beyond the obvious, that is. And while I'm okay looking at photos, the video.... that was another story. I actually found myself turning away at times, the suspense too much to bear - despite knowing in advance that he's alive and well and there was nothing to worry about. The bottom of my stomach still fell out...

(click images to enlarge)

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John Huston's "Beat The Devil"


The Ebert Club is pleased to share the following Film Noir cult classic, streaming free. I invite you to join the Club and dive into an eclectic assortment of wonderful and curious finds. Your subscription helps support the Newsletter, the Far-Flung Correspondents and the On-Demanders on my site. - RE"The movie has above all effortless charm. Once we catch on that nothing much is going to happen, we can relax and share the amusement of the actors, who are essentially being asked to share their playfulness. There is a scene on a veranda overlooking the sea, where Bogart and Jones play out their first flirtation, and by the end of their dialogue you can see they're all but cracking up; Bogart grins during the dissolve. The whole movie feels that way. Now that movies have become fearsome engines designed to hammer us with entertainment, it is nice to recall those that simply wanted to be witty company." - Roger, from his Great Movies review of "Beat the Devil".Beat The Devil (1953) Directed by John Huston. Co-written by John Huston and Truman Capote. Loosely based upon a novel of the same name by British journalist and critic Claud Cockburn; pseudonym James Helvick. Starring Humphrey Bogart, Jennifer Jones, Gina Lollobrigida, Peter Lorre, Robert Morley, Edward Underdown, Ivor Barnard, Marco Tulli, Bernard Lee and Saro Urzì.Synopsis: A quartet of international crooks - Peterson, O'Hara, Ross and Ravello - is stranded in Italy while their steamer is being repaired. With them are the Dannreuthers. The six are headed for Africa, presumably to sell vacuum cleaners but actually to buy land supposedly loaded with uranium. They're joined by others who apparently have similar designs. It was intended by Huston as a tongue-in-cheek spoof of his earlier masterpiece, "The Maltese Falcon" and the noir genre in general.

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#95 December 28, 2011

Marie writes: some of you may recall reading about the Capilano Suspension Bridge in North Vancouver, British Columbia Canada. (Click to enlarge.)

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Polanski's Chinatown: A dream analysis


WARNING: Big-time spoilers in the above video.

From the introduction to my fully explicated video, "Chinatown: Frames and Lenses," at Press Play, Chapter 4 in a week-long series: LIFE'S WORK: THE FILMS OF ROMAN POLANSKI:

Roman Polanski's "Chinatown" is a Panavision color film noir--a ghost story, really--about flawed vision and the inescapable resurgence of the past, made in 1974 and set in 1937.  Private eye Jake Gittes (Jack Nicholson) thinks he knows what's going on, but as Noah Cross (John Huston) tells him, "Believe me, you don't."  We see what Jake sees, and it's invariably filtered or blocked--viewed from a distance through binoculars, or from outside through a door or window that obscures a more complete perspective. Photographs--snippets of time recorded on film, one of the tools of the detective trade--are potentially misleading because they don't--can't--capture what's going on outside of the frame, beyond the moment. 

This video montage is a hymn of praise to a film that had a profound effect on me when I first saw it as a 16-year-old in 1974, and that I've lived with, haunted, ever since. It's also an unabashed love poem to the desperate, damaged and determined Mrs. Mulwray (Faye Dunaway). 

Like "close-up," which I did in 2007, it's a free-associative critical essay/dream sequence, based on themes and images (and sound and music) from the movie. Although, like a lot of creative pursuits, the process of assembling it (from pieces of film that were already floating around in my head) was largely unconscious, I now (at least in retrospect) think I understand why each fragment is where it is.

So, I thought I'd turn around and look back at "Chinatown" through the lens (or frame or door or window, if you will) of my video essay, using it as a way of translating the film's images into critical prose. Because, in "Chinatown," every image is loaded with meanings, associations, resonances. If you're familiar with the film, you'll immediately see that this reflection on "Chinatown" isn't structured chronologically. Scenes, themes, moments and images keep circling back in fragments... not unlike they do in the film, but in a more condensed and less linear form...

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