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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…


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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Russian drama wins top prize at Chicago fest


Two men are in conflict in a stunning sub-Arctic landscape in "How I Ended This Summer," the Russian drama by Aleksei Popogrebsky that won the Gold Hugo, the top prize in the 46th Chicago International Film Festival.

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"King's" takes the crown in Toronto


"The King's Speech," a story of Britain's King George VI, won the coveted Cadillac People's Choice Audience Award Sunday at the Toronto International Film Festival -- and an audience member won a new Cadillac. The film -- which stars Colin Firth as the King and Helena Bonham-Carter as Elizabeth, his wife and mother of Elizabeth II -- is considered a sure thing for Academy nominations.

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"Uncle Boonmee" wins Cannes Palme d'Or


CANNES, France (AP) – The hypnotic Thai film "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives" has won the top honor at the Cannes Film Festival. The film directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul traces the dreamlike final days of a man dying of kidney failure as the ghost of his dead wife returns to tend him, and his long-lost son comes home in the form of a jungle spirit.

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And the Palme d'Whiskers goes to...

Entry to the Grande Theatre Lumiere for the press premiere of Rachid Bouchareb's "Outside of the Law" was considerably delayed on Friday morning by heightened security. Heavily-armed members of the French National Guard were stationed in the street and on the red carpet. Water bottles were confiscated by guards; men got full-body pat-downs from head to toe; and women had bags exhaustively inspected at two different points. This was in addition to the usual electronic wanding that we are all subject to upon entering any part of the Palais.

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Shadows on the screen: The angel and the devil

There's a slide that appears on the big screen in the Debussy Theatre while audiences file in for screenings for the A Certain Regard section of the festival. Two figures in profile, one of them with horns on his head, are shown in silhouette against a light background. It's actually a photo of this year's Cannes jury president Tim Burton with Batman, but I continue to see it as an angel and a devil.

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Iranian filmmakers take center stage

May 18 -- Some Cannes traditions never die. In the years I've been coming to the festival, the same music has been playing in the Grand Theatre Lumiere before the early morning press screening. It's always jazz, and it always seems to be the same selection every morning, every year. I've started to imagine that there's some ancient reel-to-reel tape recorder in a distant control booth, and that a guard is assigned to rewind and start the old tape at 8:00 am each day.

Sound or more specifically, language is central to Jean-Luc Godard's "Film Socialism." Roger has commented so thoroughly on that film that I'm not going to add much, except to say that Godard remains one of the grand tricksters of world cinema. With his French dialogue, minimal and cryptic subtitles in so-called "Navajo English" (this in itself seems a tongue-in-cheek fiction on his part), and bits of a few other languages thrown in, he creates a Babel that I believe was made to baffle and intrigue one and all, no matter what your native tongue. It's a kind of rarefied fun to try to decipher, and maddening at the same time. Meanwhile, Godard the magician, like the wizard in "The Wizard of Oz," gets to hide behind his screen, sending out big ideas and big images.

Above: Abbas Kiarostami (AP photo)

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Overturning expectations: The ups and downs

May 16 -- Sunday was a day of highs and lows, of new discoveries and dashed hopes. Bertrand Tavernier and Takeshi Kitano, two directors whose films I had most anticipated here, did not live up to my expectations with "The Princess of Montpensier" and "Outrage," respectively. Hungarian Agnes Kocsis, a director who had only made one previous feature in 2006, blew me away with her insightful "Adrienn Pal."

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Window shopping: Best show in town

Window-shopping is daily the source of one of the best free shows in Cannes. There's nothing quite like walking around this town, even if it's just a brief walk between screening rooms, and ogling what could be bought if you had millions of dollars at your disposal: the most extravagant flower arrangements, the most colorful and sumptuous pastries, piles of diamond necklaces, strapless cocktail dresses with skirts of white marabou feathers or silver palettes, ice-cream-pastel Chanel suits with glittering sequin trim.  The loot of the world's fashion runways is displayed in all its theatrical and expensive glory in the shops that face the Croisette, and most of these outfits would look outlandish anyplace but right here in Cannes.

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Four screenings, from blues to bliss

Walking down a narrow side street from my hotel to the Palais at 7:55 am every morning involves running a gauntlet of persistent petitioners, who appeal to those rushing to the 8:30 am press screenings for spare admission tickets. Press get in by showing their badges, but those whose accreditation is only through the film market sign up online for tickets, which they sometimes don't need. Spare tickets must float around frequently enough to justify cinephiles of all ages honing their approach techniques, from aggressive and confrontational to polite and needy. Some hold little handmade signs with the name of the day's film, and close in no matter how fast you walk or how diligently you avoid eye contact.

Left: Im Sang-soo's remake of "The Housemaid."

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