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Transcendence

"Transcendence" is a serious science fiction movie filled with big ideas and powerful images, but it never quite coheres, and the end is a copout.

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Bears

"Bears" could have used a lot more science; more substantive information in the place of wacky one-liners. Still, the images trump everything.

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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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Late Spring

Late Spring

Shukichi is a professor, a widower, absorbed in his work. His unmarried daughter, Noriko, runs his household for him. Both are perfectly content with this arrangement until the old man’s sister declares that her niece should get married. Noriko is,…

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Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day

"Groundhog Day" is a film that finds its note and purpose so precisely that its genius may not be immediately noticeable. It unfolds so inevitably, is so entertaining, so apparently effortless, that you have to stand back and slap yourself…

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Fanny and Alexander

Fanny and Alexander

Ingmar Bergman's "Fanny and Alexander" (1982) was intended to be his last film, and in it, he tends to the business of being young, of being middle-aged, of being old, of being a man, woman, Christian, Jew, sane, crazy, rich,…

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A Woman's Tale

A Woman's Tale

"Beauty in life may come from makeup, or what have you, but in death, you have to fall back on character."

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Easy Rider

Easy Rider

Nobody went to see "Easy Rider" (1969) only once. It became one of the rallying-points of the late '60s, a road picture and a buddy picture, celebrating sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll, and the freedom of the open road. It…

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The Battle of Algiers

The Battle of Algiers

The most common form of warfare since 1945 has involved irregular resistance fighters attacking conventional forces and then disappearing back into the population. Bombs planted by civilians, often women and children, have served as deadly weapons in this war. The…

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3 Women

3 Women

And so I descend once more into the mysterious depths of "3 Women," a film that was imagined in a dream. Robert Altman's 1977 masterpiece tells the story of three women whose identities blur, shift and merge until finally, in…

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Playtime

Playtime

Jacques Tati's "Playtime," like "2001: A Space Odyssey" or "The Blair Witch Project" or "Russian Ark," is one of a kind, complete in itself, a species already extinct at the moment of its birth. Even Mr. Hulot, Tati's alter ego,…

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Last Tango in Paris

Last Tango in Paris

Reviewing "Last Tango in Paris" in 1972, I wrote that it was one of the great emotional experiences of our time, adding: "It's a movie that exists so resolutely on the level of emotion, indeed, that possibly only Marlon Brando,…

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El Norte

El Norte

At the dawn of the U.S. independent film movement, two of its founders made what Variety called its first epic. "El Norte" told the story of a Guatemalan brother and sister who fled persecution at home and journeyed north the…

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The Last Picture Show

The Last Picture Show

The best scene in "The Last Picture Show" takes place outside town at the "tank," an unlovely pond that briefly breaks the monotony of the flat Texas prairie. Sam the Lion has taken Sonny and the retarded boy Billy fishing…

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Jules and Jim

Jules and Jim

François Truffaut's "Jules and Jim" opens with carousel music and a breathless narration that tells of two young men -- one French, one Austrian -- who meet in Paris in 1912 and become lifelong friends: "They taught each other their…

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Victim

Victim

Recent critics find "Victim" timid in its treatment of homosexuality, but viewed in the context of Great Britain in 1961, it's a film of courage. How much courage can be gauged by the fact that it was originally banned from…

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Leaving Las Vegas

Leaving Las Vegas

Mike Figgis' "Leaving Las Vegas" (1995) is not a love story, although it feels like one, but a story about two desperate people using love as a form of prayer and a last resort against their pain. It is also…

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The Color Purple

The Color Purple

Returning to "The Color Purple" after almost 20 years, I can see its flaws more easily than when I named it the best film of 1985, but I can also understand why it moved me so deeply, and why the…

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Au Hasard Balthazar

Au Hasard Balthazar

Robert Bresson is one of the saints of the cinema, and "Au Hasard Balthazar" (1966) is his most heartbreaking prayer. The film follows the life of a donkey from birth to death, while all the time living it the dignity…

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