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John Wick

The film breathes exhilarating life into its tired premise, thanks to some dazzling action choreography, stylish visuals and–most importantly–a vintage anti-hero performance from Keanu Reeves.

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Low Down

Preiss' movie does a consistently excellent job of explaining the lure of jazz, and the psychology of addicts, their enablers and their children, without explaining…

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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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Ballad of Narayama

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 up between its origins in the kabuki style and its subject of starvation in a…

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Monsieur Hire

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 murder, and the opening shot is of a corpse. Monsieur Hire is a scrawny, balding…

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Veronika Voss

Veronika Voss

Rainer Werner Fassbinder premiered "Veronika Voss" in February 1982, at the Berlin Film Festival. It was hailed as one of the best of his 40 films. Late on the night of June 9, 1982, he made a telephone call from…

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Spirit of the Beehive

Spirit of the Beehive

In a vast Spanish plain, harvested of its crops, a farm home rests. Some distance away there is a squat building like a barn, apparently not used, its doors and windows missing. In the home lives a family of four:…

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Mulholland Dr.

Mulholland Dr.

It's well known that David Lynch's "Mulholland Dr." was assembled from the remains of a cancelled TV series, with the addition of some additional footage filmed later. That may be taken by some viewers as a way to explain the…

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Cléo from 5 to 7

Cléo from 5 to 7

In France, the afternoon hours from five to seven are known as the hours when lovers meet. On this afternoon, nothing could be further from Cleo's mind than sex. She is counting out the minutes until she learns the results…

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Spirited Away

Spirited Away

Viewing Hiyao Miyazaki's "Spirited Away" for the third time, I was struck by a quality between generosity and love. On earlier viewings I was caught up by the boundless imagination of the story. This time I began to focus on…

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The Pledge

The Pledge

Sean Penn's "The Pledge" begins when it seems his protagonist's career is ending. Jack Nicholson plays Jerry Black, a Nevada police detective whose retirement party is interrupted by news of the brutal murder of a young girl. Across the noisy…

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French Cancan

French Cancan

It is universally agreed that Jean Renoir was one of the greatest of all directors, and he was also one of the warmest and most entertaining. "Grand Illusion" and "Rules of the Game" are routinely included on lists of the…

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La Collectionneuse

La Collectionneuse

During lazy summer days and nights, the subjects of "La Collectionneuse" practice idleness and slow-motion mind games in a villa in the hills above St. Tropez on the French Riviera. Sensuality is always in the air, where it drifts aimlessly.…

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La Ceremonie

La Ceremonie

The French have a name for the events leading up to a death by guillotine. They call it "the ceremony." Although Claude Chabrol's "La Ceremonie" (1995) contains no guillotines, there is a relentless feeling to it, as if the characters…

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Harakiri

Harakiri

Samurai films, like westerns, need not be familiar genre stories. They can expand to contain stories of ethical challenges and human tragedy. "Harakiri," one of the best of them, is about an older wandering samurai who takes his time to…

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Smiles of a Summer Night

Smiles of a Summer Night

Adultery was the great subject of many of Ingmar Bergman's films and much of his life. He was married five times, and not very faithfully, because he also had fairly public relationships with the actresses Harriet Andersson, Bibi Andersson and…

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Ivan the Terrible, Parts I & II

Ivan the Terrible, Parts I & II

The two parts of Eisenstein's "Ivan the Terrible" are epic in scope, awesome in visuals, and nonsensical in story. It is one of those works that has proceeded directly to the status of Great Movie without going through the intermediate…

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The Killing

The Killing

Stanley Kubrick considered "The Killing" (1956) to be his first mature feature, after a couple of short warm-ups. He was 28 when it was released, having already been an obsessed chess player, a photographer for Look magazine and a director…

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The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

John Ford and John Wayne together created much of the mythology of the Old West we carry in our minds. Beginning with "Stagecoach" (1939), continuing from 1948 through 1950 with the Cavalry Trilogy ("Fort Apache," "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon"…

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Contact

Contact

"Contact" is a film that takes place at the intersection of science, politics and faith. Those are three subjects that don't always fit easily together. In the film, an alien intelligence transmits an image of three pages of encrypted symbols.…

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Departures

Departures

It is a bad time for the young couple. He plays the cello in a small provincial orchestra. Their audiences have been sparse. The owner of the orchestra sadly tells them it must shut down. He comes home and informs…

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A Man Escaped

A Man Escaped

Robert Bresson's films are often about people confronting certain despair. His subject is how they try to prevail in the face of unbearable circumstances. His plots are not about whether they succeed, but how they endure. He tells these stories…

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Nosferatu the Vampyre

Nosferatu the Vampyre

There is a quality to the color photography in Werner Herzog's "Nosferatu the Vampyre" that seeps into your bones. It would be inadequate to call it "saturated." It is rich, heavy, deep. The earth looks cold and dirty. There isn't…

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The Match Factory Girl

The Match Factory Girl

This poor girl. I wanted to reach out my arms and hug her. That was during the first half of "The Match Factory Girl." Then my sympathy began to wane. By the end of the film, I think it's safe…

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